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We argue that social media are not only new communication channels in migration networks, but that they actively transform the nature of these networks and thereby facilitate migration. Despite some limitations stemming from the ‘digital divide’ and the reduced trustworthiness of virtual ties, qualitative data reveal four relevant functions of social media that facilitate international migration. First, social media enhance the possibilities of maintaining strong ties with family and friends. Second, they are used to address weak ties that are relevant to organizing the process of migration and integration. Third, social media establish a new infrastructure consisting of latent ties. Fourth, they offer a rich source of insider knowledge on migration that is discrete and unofficial. This makes potential migrants ‘streetwise’ with regard to the undertaking of migration. Based on these empirical findings we conclude that social media are transforming migration networks and thereby lowering the threshold for migration.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



migration networks, migrant networks, social ties, social capital, the internet, social media