Dr Bilesha Weeraratne Discusses the Impact of Social Media on Social Remittances during Sri Lanka’s Crises

21-22 February 2023

Social media has revolutionised long-distance communication by blurring the distinction between in-person and virtual exchanges, making the transfer of social remittances instantaneous and impactful across countries. IPS Research Fellow Dr Bilesha Weeraratne highlighted that while social remittances have played an important role in the development of Sri Lanka, their contribution is not as well-documented or recognised as financial remittances. She made these remarks while presenting a research paper titled ‘Social Remittances & Social Media: Evidence During Sri Lanka’s Socioeconomic and Political Crises’ at the ‘International Conference on Social Remittances and Social Change: Links between Home and Host Countries’ organised by the Lahore School of Economics, Lahore.

Dr Weeraratne discussed the role of social media in the transfer of social remittances to Sri Lanka during the country’s socioeconomic and political crises. Sri Lankan migrants actively engage with the social, economic, and political contexts in their home country through social media platforms and interact with non-migrants through various forms of responses inherent to social media. As such, the use of social media played a crucial role in shaping the transfer of social remittances to Sri Lanka during the crisis. According to Dr Weeraratne, the outflow of social remittances from Sri Lanka was more effective in shaping attitudes and opinions about the crisis than the inflow of social remittances. This can be linked to the large-scale drop in the inflow of financial remittances in 2022.

Dr Weeraratne’s research is one of the first to explore the impact of social media on social remittances. The study findings will provide valuable empirical evidence for Sri Lanka to harness the potential of the link between social remittances and social media for the country’s social, economic, and political development.

The two-day conference saw the participation of international experts in the fields of social remittances and migration. Dr Peggy Jane Levitt, Chair of the Department of Sociology, Wellesley College, delivered the keynote address.