NYU Students Reflect on the Rise of Subtle Traits Groups

Recently popular Facebook groups like Subtle Asian Traits and Subtle Curry Traits are bringing together communities that often feel misunderstood.

Ria Mittal

For many millennials, social media and memes are vital means of communication, reflection and artistic expression. Memes are everywhere now — Instagram, your Facebook newsfeed and even your family group chats. And if you’re keeping up with the latest trends, you’ve probably noticed the latest development: memes from subtle traits groups.

The subtle traits groups most popular right now are ones like Subtle Asian Traits, Subtle Curry Traits and Subtle White People Traits, but there are also groups for everything from hypebeasts to Christians. These closed Facebook groups are spammed with memes for and by people of specific lifestyles and cultures.

(via facebook.com)

The trend was started by a small group of private school boys in Australia who created a Subtle Private School Traits meme group. They started with around 30 members and soon expanded to over 60,000. Since then, these pages have gained popularity by posting memes related to their particular culture and to students in general.

CAS sophomore Pratheek Nagaprasad, a member of Subtle Curry Traits — a group focused on people of South Asian backgrounds — likes how the group has been able to bring people together from around the world.  

“[Subtle Curry Traits is] funny, relatable and promote[s] a sense of community among several groups of people,” Nagaprasad said. “There was a lack of such groups until now.”

(via facebook.com)

These pages are based on niche relatability and representation. This is something a lot of people hold close to their heart and truly appreciate seeing on mainstream media. It makes CAS junior Delphine Zheng happy to see people in the Subtle Asian Group bond over childhood experiences and family traditions.

“I see these groups as a way to collectively share in our understanding of certain cultural knowledge that comes from our ethnicity — whether it’s nostalgic foods that we grew up eating, navigating dating life if we have strict parents, challenging stereotypes about Asian Americans or just talking about how much we love bubble tea,” Zheng said.

The Subtle Asian Traits group has amassed over 800,000 members since its creation in September. It is the biggest “subtle traits” Facebook group and has around 5,000 NYU members. There hasn’t really been a platform of this nature and size for people — especially young people — to share their experiences via memes before.

“Memes about the Asian American experience have never been shared on such a large scale before with so many people posting and creating their own content that is often relatable to our own experience,” Zheng said. “It’s mostly dominated by East-Asian jokes and doesn’t encompass the full Asian American community, such as South Asians and Southeast Asians, but it’s definitely a step further when it comes to representation.”

(via facebook.com)

While some of the bigger groups lack representation of the larger community, at the end of the day, the memes are light-hearted and enjoyable — and students can’t get enough.

“I’m a part of many of these groups, and they honestly make my day,” CAS sophomore Sehejneet Sethi said. “Most meme pages spam my newsfeed, and I find it really annoying. But this one is different. These subtle trait pages are so funny that I don’t mind and even enjoy the endless spamming.”

Email Ria Mittal at [email protected]

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