The conditioning of social networking sites in the formation of migratory chains of unaccompanied foreign minors

From Firenze University Press Journal: Media Education

Paula Méndez Domínguez, University of Málaga

Joaquín Castillo de Mesa, University of Málaga

Antonio López Peláez, National University of Distance Education

Migration has repercussions on society as a whole and gives place to changes, especially in those who emi-grate. The migratory process generates some instabil-ity and strong stress levels on the individuals due to the dual change, cultural and psychological, which affects their adaptation to the receiving society. Same as the so called “first generation” of migrants, who feature the migratory project, the migrants of the “second and third generation” perform a horse-riding effort between two worlds (León, 2005). Literature’s build which abords the migratory processes and international mobility shows the importance of the network mechanisms for decision-making previous to the displacement and enhances the social networks plays (Bilecen et al., 2018; Boyd, 1989; Maya Jariego, 2004). The studies about migration that use relational approaches consider that the actions are interdependent with the others, through relationships and social interac-tions that connect each other (Bilecen & Lubbers, 2021; Dahinden 2005; Molina et al., 2015). Relationships that are generated and maintained during the migratory pro-cess are considered “transnationals”, unifying the origin societies with the receiving ones (Schiller et al., 1992; Levitt, 2002; Vertovec, 2009; Wimmer & Glick Schiller, 2002). The set of practices and relational processes of the migrants connect a diversity of cities, regions, nation-states, being denominated “transnationalization”, due to them being extended over the geographical, cultural and political limits (Basch et al., 2020).Networks found by the migrants, especially when they arrive for the first time to the receiving society, are non-static, experimenting social and space changes (Ryan et al., 2008). Migrants share the experience to a greater or lesser degree of social banishment when it comes to political, legal, economical or territorial status, they become strangers in the eyes of those who receive them and face external borders that do not belong to space (Elias, 2012). Each one of the migrant generations face different challenges that vary according to economic, cultural, social linguistics and/or individual characteristics factors such as age of migration, social abilities, coping strategies and the existence or type of social networks in the receiving country and how this reacts to their arrival (Ferrer et al., 2014). The international migration due to forced mobility maintained on the rise in 2021 according to reported figures by the UN for Refugees Agency (UNHCR, 2021).

Furthermore, new estimates show that the minors represent the 30 per cent of the world’s population, but it is calculated that they sum up to 42 per cent of all people moved by force (UNHCR, 2020) and they seem par-ticularly affected during the mobility crisis, especially if their mobility takes many years. The most vital stage of the youngsters, indifferent to their country or ori-gin, sets up as a decisive stage where socialization, daily activities, scholar processes, experiences, friendships, memories and future possibilities are totally and directly linked to their insertion in the society they live in (Massot & Julián, 2013). The territorial, cultural and familiar uproot which Unaccompanied Foreign Minors face (onwards UFM) can be considered as a critical event due to the network changes and the breakup of their social relations that condition their reality, putting them in an extreme vulnerability and isolation situation (Wissink & Mazzucato, 2018). In these cases, due to the residency change, their social networks are restructured, forming new bonds, breaking others, maintaining the transna-tional ones or generating local bonds (Kindler, 2021). This variability and uproot make the relationships that they stablish among themselves in order to use as a handle to which they can hold onto.

1.1. Social Networks and Migrations

The interdependent relations network that are generated among people can lead to resources and opportunities (and also negative externalities in some cases) and constitutes the social capital (Bourdieu, 1986; Lin, 2002), which is considered as an explicative element of the constitution and development of the migratory chains (Cachia & Jariego, 2018; Williams, 2006) as well as a determinant for the adaptation to the new con-text (Lubbers, 2021). Inside the migration studies, the incrustation concept, popularized by Granovetter (1985), is used to denominate the dynamic processes, where through the actors they stablish relationships. Nevertheless, although the author does not focus on the migrants, his study gives knowledge to comprehend the implications that networks and social bonds in this collective can have. Particularly it postulates that there are different types of bonds and that not all of them have the same value. While strong ties make it easier for trust to flow within groups, the weaker bonds provide information and resources depending on the social location of the actors involved, being more valuable when they meet outside of the actor’s own social circle because they act as bridges; the bridge bonds, would be those bonds that extend through different social circles, sewing relation-ships with people which they do not normally relate with (Granovetter, 1973). Burt (2005) differentiates between the closing and opening mechanisms that generate the social structures. The ones that tend to close are relationships where the people recognise themselves as similar, but they are the ones where it is tended to reach some sort of monolithic knowledge. The opening mechanism displays when there are people that are able to transit from one homogeneous group to another, carrying and bringing non-redundant information and, therefore, reaching new information.The scientific community and the work put on by social networking sites commonly departs from the bonds structuring, following homophily’s principle which is the tendency to associate with kindred people to our likes, thoughts and beliefs (Dunbar et al., 2015). Nevertheless, Hite (2003) showed that the relational processes of the bonds differ between them due to the necessities, interests and feelings among people giving place to variations in the network’s structure and their positions inside it, which usually acts as a spring and informal protection shield versus social exclusion.

1.2. Implications of Social Networking Sites in Migration

Social networking sites has brought the interest of scientists of different disciplines due to their capacity to generate social connections, new forms of organization, of participation and political and social mobilization (Fuchs, 2020). Penetration of social networks in society, the frequency of use and connectedness and interaction dynamics have turn social networking sites into a space of socialization (Wilson et al., 2012) which favours the emergence of online communities (Castillo de Mesa et al., 2021). These online connections make possible the formation of the so called digital diasporas during the migratory processes (Vázquez, 2013), which reveal com-munity networks, nations and digital identities and construction of communities among migrant popula-tions (Diamandaki, 2003). That is to say, migrants who participate in online communities, especially created in the destination places, with those who share the same culture and place of origin (Brinkerhoff, 2009). These online communities ref lect dynamic relationships of the online reality (Dunbar et al., 2015), giving place to a cycle on which problems and opportunities are redefined (Lubbers, Molina & McCarty, 2020; van Liempt & Nijen-huis, 2020; Wessendorf & Farrer, 2021) and they act as catalysts of social capital and tolerance to diversity (Castillo de Mesa et al., 2020).Appreciating the theoretical framework that proceeds, and in the interest of studying the relationships and the importance of networks in the migratory phenomenon, several inquiries are proposed on how Unaccompanied Foreign Minors participate in the formation of networks in the receiving society, and if the social relationships (bonds) among them generate communities, resources flows and opportunities, or even so create itineraries and mobilize movements to other places. The lack of knowledge of the native language and the lack of places for socialization conditions the potential creation of new relationships. These obstacles mean that the bonds that are created among the minors who live in the Minors’ Center are very strong. These links can influence the decision-making of minors, regarding future destination places. Social networking sites provide highly spontaneous information because users are the ones who willingly provide information on their personal identity, based on their explicit contact networks and interactions.


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