Digital Resilience Tactics of Syrian Refugees in the Netherlands: Social Media for Social Support, Health, and Identity

The process of adjusting to a new country may carry important stressors for refugees. In the light of neoliberal policies, refugees are expected to become resilient in a local arrival infrastructure and perform a specific subjectivity based on gratefulness, adaptability, and digital sensitivity to successfully integrate. Drawing on a qualitative, in-depth case study with Syrians living in the Netherlands, this article explores the impact of the retreat of the welfare state and unfolding digital transitions on resilience tactics of marginalized people like refugees. While recognizing the systemic violence and historic trauma many refugees have experienced, we focus on how refugees are expected to and develop ways to become resilient. Three digital resilience tactics are discussed: digital social support, digital health, and digital identities. Social support was mainly sought from family, friends, organizations, and social media platforms, whereas refugees’ engagement in meaningful digital practices aimed at fostering health promotion and identity management. Our fieldwork resurfaces paradoxes of digital resilience as described by careful emotional digital labor refugees engage in when communicating with families, the role of socio-cultural factors in shaping refugees’ ICT (information and communication technology) adoption and use for health support, and negotiation of different and conflicting identity axes online. Finally, our study provides some insights into the implementation of more effective online and offline practices in the context of social and health support by host countries.

Tags: digital health, digital identity, digital media, resilience, social support, Syrian refugees