Taking A Break From Facebook And Instagram

Culture

Connection is an important part of relationships, and having a sense of community can affect our well being. True connections are incredibly valuable. It’s been a few months since I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, and the relationships that are the closest are the ones where you are engaged and in contact regardless of your online presence. They are the ones you will message or call on the phone every day. I really value close and long-term friendships, and I found that often on social media we are viewing and sharing to people we don’t have a close connection with. The aspects of privacy, mental health, phone use and what value it has on my personal life were just some of the areas that made me remove several social media apps.

The people who care about you will make the effort to be in your life. The people that really matter will make the effort to call you and personally invite you to events or to catch up. It’s not the frequency of contact or quantity of friendships, but the time spent. A natural part of life is that people come and go in our lives. Those who are meant to be in our lives will be there.

Your productivity levels will increase. The ability to sustain focus for longer periods of time will become a habit. Social Media can be distracting and take away our attention. Phones have caused us to have shorter attention spans. I remember as a student how distracting social media can be, and how much time can go by if we spend our time on it.

Decrease in anxiety and online noise and distraction. My mental health greatly improved, and so much time will be in your hands for things that add value in your life, rather than scrolling mindlessly. There was something about Facebook and Instagram that really triggered my anxiety. Our phones can be a form of escapism. There is an overwhelming amount of information online.

Spending time doing the things you love. Time spent on your favourite activities, hobbies and time spent with the people you love. In the past few months, I love to spend the early morning going for a jog or reading a chapter of a book, whereas in the past one of the first things was to turn on my phone. Time offline means that I put more conscious time in achieving my goals.

Conformity, validation and acceptance. I think about how I really value the opinions and views of those close to me, regardless of if I agree or disagree with it. However, I find on social media there is a lot of external validation from strangers which can have an impact on ones authenticity. True validation and acceptance is through accepting yourself.

The time spent on my phone is minimised. More or less the phone is mostly used for texting, calling and replying emails. I check my phone far less, whereas when I previously had several social media apps, I’d check it more often because there would be notifications that most of the time weren’t important. Excessive screen time is unhealthy, and takes us away from the present.

The value of privacy, and realising that most people don’t truly care about you. We are essentially the products on social media platforms. It’s hard to define privacy in one definition nowadays. I am quite a private person, and would rather spend time sharing certain things with those close to me. Most people are friendly, but there really are only a handful of people in our personal lives who truly care about us.

Body image and unrealistic expectations. There is a layer of social media that can feel unrealistic. We only catch a glimpse, and even then we can’t really know someone without engaging in conversation and spending time with them. To an extent, social media can shape perceptions of body image.

Being present and focused in my own life. I’m not sure if I’ll be back on Facebook or Instagram, but it feels good to be fully focused on my own life. I do miss the days before social media where there was a sense of mystery in our lives. No one’s life is perfect, even though it can seem that way online. Spending less time on our phones can create space for us to be present in our daily lives.

Art by Lisa Perrin

Living Between Two Cultures

Culture

After watching The Farewell at the cinema last year, it was an emotional film. It also made me reflect the thoughts that came after watching Crazy Rich Asians, and how powerful films, books, photography and art can really tell these stories that make us reflect on our own personal experiences. There have been many interesting stories growing up in New Zealand, and knowing that often I will first be viewed as an Asian woman. I was reading from Old Asian, New Asian, the words: As the ethnic makeup of New Zealand continues to change, the nature of our race relations will continue to impact the very real everyday experiences of those who live here. We are in a position to build on the rich exchanges that have already taken place, but we need to keep talking.

Being born and raised in New Zealand, I grew up feeling never quite fully Kiwi, and yet when I visit Taiwan, I’m never quite fully Taiwanese. I also didn’t grow up in the city, and lived on a farm which meant that I was often one of the only Asians in most settings. New Zealand is very isolated from the rest of the world. However, I do find that the understanding of Asian culture and knowledge is limited in many ways despite the population of Asians being significant in New Zealand. I hope this will change. In understanding, truly understanding, we create empathy, we have an open mind and we can learn from one another.

There are aspects of values from Asian and Western culture that I can and cannot relate to. In being open, we have to have respect, compassion and be there to listen to stories. I think in sharing experiences, it can allow one another to have a sense of connection and understanding. I can appreciate conversations where you do not feel assumptions, judgments, prejudice, stereotypes and false beliefs, but rather a genuine interest in wanting to understand more about Asian culture. Some things I’d like to mention, is that it’s okay to reach out for help in terms of seeing a counselor, doctor or psychologist for your mental health. There is a stigma in mental health in general, but also in Asian culture it tends to be something that can be kept quiet.

From my personal experience, it helps to see someone who can have the cultural understanding. It’s also important to connect and have conversations with people from all walks of life, because this creates a sense of open mindedness and understanding. I find language is also really important in connecting with people. That’s why it’s so important to treasure and speak your mother tongue. The beauty of living in New Zealand, especially in cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is that there is a diverse mixture of cultures. Living between two cultures is a blessing, as I am grateful for growing up in a household filled with Asian food, language, customs and traditions while growing up being surrounded by nature, lakes, mountains and never ending skies.

Photography by Sun Jun

Being Asked The Question ‘Where Are You From?’

Culture

la vie design studio_2Curiosity is often one of the main reasons one asks about a person’s ethnicity. ‘Where are you from?’ is one of the most common questions that many cultural minorities are asked. When I was younger, I would always respond with ‘I’m from Auckland.’ As I got older, I began to respond with ‘I’m from New Zealand, but my parents are from Taiwan.” As it saved time with questions such as, ‘Where are your parents from?’ ‘Are you an immigrant?’ ‘What are you?’ and ‘Were you born in New Zealand?’ I remember writing about how it is better to phrase the words ‘What is your ethnicity?’ if you are truly curious to know someone’s background and ancestry. Auckland is a multicultural city, and there are many individuals who were born here, moved here or have been here for several generations.

I have a friend who is Chinese and has been in New Zealand for three generations. Where are you from, can in a way, also be asking where do you belong, what is your history, what is your culture, where do you connect with, where do you call home, why do you look the way you do and an endless array of questions that can really go deeper in ones background. Stereotypes, assumptions, and generalizations are sadly often drawn from a race. I was recently asked ‘Where are you from?’ and when I mentioned Taiwan, I often hear ‘I’ve traveled to Taiwan!’ which is exciting and great. However, when I’m asked a lot of questions about Taiwan, I cannot always answer them, as I didn’t grow up there, acquire an education there and have not lived there.

In a post here sharing about Helene Wong’s book Being Chinese, I said how when the nineties arrived, there was an increase in immigration. Wong talks about how during this time, she really became ‘Asian’. She talks about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ She writes that “White New Zealanders were suddenly seeing more Chinese faces on the street…They did not say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Chinese were too different – in looks, speech, behaviour.” She continues to write that “The Sinophobia also came from longstanding beliefs in the West that Chinese were inferior.” When people deny this, they roll everything under the carpet to keep it quiet.

When the question is asked, although most of the time it is a harmless curiosity, it can be asked in a way that makes one feel they are being defined. I’ve had mostly older white men say ‘Ni Hao’ to me once they’ve asked me enough questions to say ‘What language do you speak?’ or ‘It’s hard to tell what sort of Asian you are’. However, where are you from? is also asking where is home? Taiwan is home to me as well, but New Zealand is my natural response since I spent my whole life here. I think it’s absolutely okay to ask someone’s ethnicity if you are simply curious, but try not to ask it as a first question when you meet someone for the first time. I’ve had customers ask me up front when I worked in hospitality and retail, and frankly, it can be quite rude.

Where are you from also asks us to share how we identify ourselves. If I say I’m a Kiwi, it’s because I was born here and call New Zealand my home. Growing up, I’m grateful to have been brought up in a home where Chinese culture was a significant part of my life, and so I was able to stay in touch with that part of my culture. I was reading Mabel’s post here and she writes No matter how polite the conversation, when we get asked, “Where are you from?”, often there comes a case of mistaken identity, a case of “othering” in the sense of “Us” and “Them”. There often leads to a lot of questions for example in my experience ‘Why did your parents move here?’ and ‘Do they speak Taiwanese in Taiwan?’ and other questions.

Mabel writes Some time ago I was window shopping in the city. A white (presumably Australian) guy who looked around my age approached and striked up a conversation. It was pretty evident he was trying to pick me up as I wrote in this blog post. “So, where are you from?” he asked barely five minutes into the conversation before trying to invite himself back to my place. I was not amused. Don’t see myself as purely someone’s toy of affection. It’s a question that at times brings to the surface disconcerting patriarchal, gender stereotypes. I’ve been ‘hit on’ by white men before, but when it’s been those around my age, it’s mostly harmless, but unfortunately, when it’s been from old white men, I feel this huge sense of discomfort, ‘othering’ and being placed in a box of what an Asian woman is ‘stereotyped’ to be.

Where are you from also asks one ‘where did you grow up?’ and naturally, the response will be where you spent most of your life. There are many people who are surprised when I say that I grew up in the countryside, as I didn’t grow up in an environment where there were many Asians, and most of my friends growing up were Caucasian. We all have our own experiences, and everyone has an interesting journey. I think that it’s important to have sensitivity when we ask these questions, as they can run deeper than one may realise. In The Guardian it states ‘People move an average of 12 times during their life. The notion of a ‘hometown’ or culture can be complex.’ It can be a personal question, that sometimes we may want to share more with those we feel close with, or once we’ve opened up and had deeper conversations.

This is why sometimes being asked upfront, can seem quite direct, which is why we can ask different questions when we are getting to know someone. Sometimes I feel that there is so much more I could share about my own life experience, but it can be limited from being asked about my race in the first question. The article says ‘We seem to want to put people in boxes, to size them up quickly.’ When we are asked the question predominantly because of the way we appear, it can make one wonder about the intentions behind the question. Perhaps, if you ever want to know someone’s ethnicity, ask once you have talked to them more, share about your own background and be sensitive, curious and interested.

Photography by Sun Jun