Smart Refugees: How Syrian Asylum Migrants Use Social Media Information in Migration Decision-Making
Social Media + Society , Volume 4 - Issue 1
Social media are increasingly popular channels of information on which migrants base their decisions on whether to migrate and the destinations where to settle. While social media offer a relatively cheap, easily accessible, and media-rich means of communication, their use is not without challenges for asylum migrants. Various studies describe issues with access and evaluation of the truthfulness of available information for this specific group of migrants. This article discusses social media use by asylum migrants prior to and during migration. This study is based on in-depth interviews with 54 Syrian asylum migrants who recently obtained refugee status in the Netherlands. Syrians were the largest group of migrants applying for asylum in European Union (EU) member states in 2015 and 2016. The findings show that the majority of Syrian asylum migrants have access to social media information before and during migration, often through the use of smartphones. Besides uneven access to technologies, fear of government surveillance restricts the smartphone use of asylum migrants. The results of this study indicate that Syrian asylum migrants prefer social media information that originates from existing social ties and information that is based on personal experiences. Generally, this information is considered more trustworthy. Asylum migrants use various strategies to validate rumors that are present on social media and come from unknown sources. These strategies include checking the source of information, validating information with trusted social ties, triangulation of online sources, and comparing information with their own experience.