Overcoming Stigma: Migrants' Use of Social Media

The 2018 International Mental Health Conference is almost upon us again, this year the conference will be held over the 8th – 10th August at the RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, Queensland.

This annual conference is now in its 19th year and continues to be the pinnacle event in the mental health industry. The Conference provides an invaluable opportunity to build relationships and to share knowledge, research and latest policies.

Dr Soontae An, Professor at Ewha Womans University joins us at the conference to discuss ‘Overcoming Stigma: Migrants' Use of Social Media’.


A sudden growth spurt has been observed in the marriage migrant population in South Korea. Because those migrants largely originate from economically less developed countries, they are often pejoratively labelled as “helpless,” “pathetic,” or “sold” women. Although such stigma inhibits social cohesion and adversely affects the well-being of multi-ethnic families, the antecedents and consequences of this stigma has received little scholarly attention. We propose that social networks with friends or family mitigate the negative effect of social stigma and boost feelings of empowerment, which, in turn, deter internalization of social stigma as self-stigma.

In this study, we interviewed 201 Vietnamese females, the largest group of marriage migrants in South Korea. Results revealed the critical role of social media among marriage migrants, enabling them to connect with their family and friends. Social networks through social media acted as a buffer against negative public opinions or any belittling views. In fact, solid social networks were linked to feeling supported and empowered.

The proposed moderated mediation model confirmed that the detrimental effect of social stigma can be mitigated by solid social networks, and a greater feeling of empowerment led to less self-stigma. The study results underscore the notion of trans-migration, in that migrants maintain close relations not only with their current society but also with their home country. Social media functioned as a critical infrastructure for migrants’ social networks. Study results also raise a red flag for the internalization of social stigma and lack of empowerment among those who are less connected and more detached from the sources of social support. As Korea transforms into a multicultural society, the well-being of female marriage migrants is critical. Stigma toward marriage migrants, which prevents them from fulfilling their full potential, warrants more systematic and thorough investigation.


Soontae An is a professor in the Division of Communication and Media at Ewha Womans University. Before joining Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea, she worked as assistant/associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University from 2001 to 2010. She holds Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; MA in Advertising and Public Relations from University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; MA in Mass Communication from Sogang University; and BA in Law from Ewha Womans University. Her research centers around various health communication issues, especially stigma.

For further information on the 19th International Mental Health Conference and to secure your spot please visit anzmh.asn.au/conference



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