This is a question that has been sitting in my notes for a blog post for a while now. Many of you may have seen the video shared on social media.
If you haven’t here it is:
I know many expats who are stuck in their on-line worlds. They are on Facebook, in groups, making comments or just watching what goes on. Sharing images on Instagram, Tweeting and Skyping.
They are watching YouTube, keeping up with news back home and watching the latest show from their favourite channel. Without it they couldn’t take part in the conversations with their friends back home on social media.
The electronic world is an important one as an expat, it’s essential to keep in touch with our loved ones and at times a challenge as I’ve blogged about before in The Expat Technology Challenge.
There are those we see participating on social media who seem to be there just to wind others up. Known as ‘trolls’ they throw in a sentence, sit back and watch the fireworks, stirring a little more occasionally for good measure.
I was recently targeted by one of these myself, the type of person who can’t scroll past something they don’t want to see. I won’t go into detail, but this one took personal offence to my blog links.
At the time I was tempted to share my Expat Bragger post, to rise to the bait and jump in. Instead I stood back and watched as it escalated out of all proportion as these things always do. In fact the conversation was still going 9 days later.
I did decide to stop sharing my posts on that platform, I could chose to stand above the petty bickering and continue as before, but I just don’t want to be a part of that. I’m not going to spend my time arguing with someone I don’t even know.
However, it did remind me of this question. Asked by the poet/rapper Prince Ea. Is our humanity being changed, being auto-corrected? I like to think that my generation can put down their mobiles and switch off their wifi, go out and enjoy the world. Can you? And what about the next generation?
We all see families in restaurants on holiday, the kids are on their pads playing games, mother is chatting on Facebook on her phone and dad is checking out the football scores. Where’s the conversation? Where’s the interaction? What’s happened to families in the last decade?
Social media, smart phones and tablets are so new and yet have changed the way we live our lives so quickly. Facebook began in 2004 and Instagram in 2010, the same year the iPad was launched. Maybe that’s why people are so quick to show their anger? Maybe they are feeling left behind with such rapid changes?
Is it really that simple? If we turn off our computers and go and meet up for a coffee the world will become a better place? I don’t know…
I do know that as an expat you won’t get to know the locals or experience the culture through the screen. You can watch a video of Greek dancing, you can look at a picture of the temples in Angkor. But you will never fully appreciate them unless you go there and feel the history. Oh and the butterflies you saw in Tomb Raider they really are there.
That’s one thing that used to set us apart as expats, we left to experience the world, to go out there an really do it. When I first went to Kuwait getting on the internet required a lap-top and a very slow dial-up connection. Now many of us use our blogs and social media to share our life.
But it shouldn’t and doesn’t stop us living it. You can’t imagine what it feels like to ride an elephant unless you actually do it. And believe me Greek dancing looks easy until you’ve tripped over your feet lots!
Today though there are those expats who sit at home and watch from afar. They don’t have the pleasure of a working out a conversation where each person speaks a different language. When they do venture out they stick to their own nationality, never really leaving their comfort zone.
There are those who may be frightened, sitting in a flat in china where the language and culture are so different searching for a group to join on Facebook. I know it’s scary but get out, go to your local coffee shop and strike up a conversation. That’s how real connections are made.
You find many expat groups that just stick to their own nationality on social media and real life. They all discuss the same soaps from back home and which shop stocks their favourite processed foods. Complain about the local population and the local rules. Complain about the politics from back home and locally. Maybe they shouldn’t be expats at all? Maybe they would be the same back home? But at least they do get out occasionally.
Then there are the ones who tried initially and got their fingers burnt. It didn’t quite work out. They tried to join the expat community but didn’t quite fit in. Now they watch from the sidelines on social media. To those I say don’t give up, go out there, experience the things you want to, eventually you’ll meet people just like you by doing those things.
If we sit on our computers and fail to interact maybe we will be auto-corrected. Though I still stubbornly insist on my English spelling despite the best efforts of Microsoft to make us all Americans.
I know one thing our memories won’t be of the times we looked down at the mobile, and I’m still shocked that I spent spend 4 years of my life doing that. I don’t want to lose touch with the people and place around me.
I’ll keep following the anti-social network but make sure that I sit on the beach, play with the dog, hug a friend and enjoy a sunset not just take the picture.
Now I’m heading out to have lunch with my parents. I’ll take my phone to keep in touch with my husband who’s working in another country. For some of us it really is an essential connection. But I’ll also look up a little more and and enjoy connecting with the people who are there.
Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of our humanity, even if it does take a ‘troll’ to do it!
What do you think can we auto-correct humanity?