Social Media Research, Photo by Geralt,

Survey Report: Third Culture Kids and Social Media

Social Media Research, Photo by Geralt,

Third Culture Kids are wonderfully responsive to research projects – and I’m so grateful! I put out a survey exploring the ways in which TCKs use social media only a few days ago and I was quickly inundated with responses. So many of the respondents asked me to share my findings that I decided to do a short report here, as the easiest and most effective way of saying ‘Thank you!’ for getting involved!

This was a survey powered by Survey Monkey; it was composed of 10 questions and took about 5 minutes to fill out. I accessed respondents by sharing the link with various different Facebook groups. These were: Third Culture Kids Everywhere, I am a Triangle, You Know You’re a Missionary Kid…, Liberal Missionary Kids, and FIGT Research Network. This last is a closed group and connected to the Families in Global Transition Conferences. It’s a fantastic means by which expat and TCK researchers can keep in touch. If you want to read more about FIGT 2016, I wrote a series of posts on it starting here. If you are interested in attending FIGT 2017, the early bird registration is up on the 15th December! Click here to register. Okay, plug over 😉 Back to the survey…

So I set up this survey to better understand how to communicate effectively with my adult TCKs. If I could find out which social media platforms they use then I could develop better strategies for connecting with them. I also wanted to find out more about why TCKs use social media. I am interested in how much TCKs turn to ‘virtual communities’ for support and a sense of belonging.


Results are reported from 100 respondents, 20 male and 80 female. Of these, 94% used social media on a daily basis, with 5% using it more sparingly by logging in weekly. Bearing in mind all my respondents were recruited via Facebook (so massive bias there!), 96% of respondents used Facebook regularly, with Instagram coming is as second popular at 38%. Twitter followed at 21%.

Most respondents used social media to keep in touch with ‘real life’ friends (93%), but a large proportion also used it to access articles of interest to them (59%) and to feel part of a community (53%). Poignantly, one respondent noted that social media helped them to “find pedophiles” from their past. This was a sad reminder of the pain carried by many adult TCKs, as well as an encouragement that social media can be empowering as well as entertaining.

The largest proportion of respondents were between the ages of 0 and 2 at the time of their first move (60%) with the fewest moving between over the age of 15 (4%). Before the age of 16, 23% of respondents had moved 4 to 6 times, 21% had moved 7 to 9 times, and 16% had moved 10-12 times. For this question, I asked respondents to include house moves as well as country moves. From my experience of working with clients, moving house within country can be as disruptive because it fragments an already truncated experience of a place, and because family climate alters so often upon a house move, similarly as to a country move. 

60 nationalities were represented in my respondent group, with 16% of dual nationality. 88 host countries were represented, though there was some respondent confusion over where they were being asked to list host countries before the age of 16 or afterwards.

Interestingly, ‘only’ 33 countries were represented when I asked respondents to list the country in which they were currently located. 46% of respondents were currently located in the USA, indicative perhaps of the greater awareness in that country of the term TCK. These TCKs were most likely to have sought out membership of the Facebook groups in which I had promoted this survey.


There are a few things I would have liked to have done differently with this survey – not least including a question of age! In the future I would also clarify the question of host country to differentiate host countries in childhood and adulthood. Furthermore, I would make the age of transition 18 rather than 16.

Future Research Opportunities

Despite it’s limitations, I’m excited that this survey points to some areas that would invite further research. Two areas would be of particular interest to me.

The ways in which social media acts as a virtual community for TCKs.

The extent to which TCKs go on to ‘settle’ in their passport countries in adulthood, or go abroad as expatriates in their own right.

If you know of any research in these two areas, please do get in touch and let me know!

A massive thank you to all the kind interest, and to all the fantastic TCKs out there who took time to complete this survey!



  1. Jody C Tangredi says:

    Hi Rachel! Thanks so much for the initiative and result summary! One thought I had for your 2nd listed future research opportunity of interest – perhaps add a category of TCKs who didn’t “settle” in their passport country, didn’t become expats, but did remain in one country as an immigrant of sorts! An adopted home country I suppose? For example my 2 sisters and I all ended up in the US and stayed here for various reasons. It wasn’t a conscious intended choice to stay here by any one of us, but it just turned out that way. We have dual Canadian and British citizenship/one parent from each country and never set foot in the US prior to being adults (defined in our case as early-mid 20’s).

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