Remember the times when an international SKYPE call with friends and family was an occasion to meticulously prepare for?
First you needed an account, then a good phone or laptop and above all else of course a working personally subscribed for internet connection as wireless was just emerging. Then Facebook’s video call option arrived on the scene. And the rest is history…
Today we take cheap cross-town as well as cross-planet instant communication for granted. No more need to set up particular hours or days to chat with each other; we are online 24/7 and would drop everything in order not to miss a single virtual encounter.
Ever more popular here in Turkey ‘Telegram’ became the latest addition enabling us to show off our best attire whilst featuring the perfect real-time or imported (still) background.
Talking about backgrounds and what always amazes me when participating in calls with more than one person is how many books they have at home or in the office: there must be huge pressure to impress your fellow video link participants by sitting in front of shelves overloaded with heavy volumes resembling more of a public library then a living room. But anyways, each to his own as they say…
On a more serious note social media has changed the way we live and yes indeed your friendly writer belongs to those who actually argue has changed things for the better. Let me explain:
Talking from an expatriate’s viewpoint one of the major reasons to open more than one social media account is to stay informed and not simply in touch. Due to the advent of forums and chat groups we interact with many different people from many different countries. Returning to the introduction to this article, SKYPE meant one on one and in most cases amongst friends and family. Now we are linked to an audience that might be living next door or many hours away. It is fair to assume that in a forum or chat-group made up of hundreds if not thousands of users few would know more than a handful in person.
Certainly such traffic needs guidelines hence we invented the role of administrator. There is the never-ending debate about netiquette and what is an acceptable style level whilst commenting online and what constitutes verbal abuse but in all fairness it makes good sense that a small group of responsible people monitors the flow of fact and fiction so to speak.
For me social media in principle carries with it three major functions. First, there is the above mentioned friends and family communication dimension. As we see each other we are almost with each other; it is a very personal way to talking long distance.
Second, there is the information aspect. Checking various pages, groups and forums allows us to get the bigger picture as we learn from fellow expatriates and their experiences. Sometimes we ask a question, sometimes we ship in an answer. Mostly however we just follow this or that thread, we are often passengers not drivers of a particular topical debate and why not?
Third, there is the express yourself bonus. Besides talking with family far away and obtaining vital information about living abroad from users who do exactly that we would post images of places, things and people we care about. We want others to share in our joy (or troubles)and that can include adding a photo of a meal we just cooked or about a trip to the countryside or reminiscing about a gathering of classmates ten years ago. Correct, inherent in all of this is a small version of an ego trip (myself included) as we want to portray ourselves vis-à-vis others as leading an interesting life. Some more cynically inclined users would actually go so far as to say this interesting lifestyle creation happens exactly because of planning to share it via social media as if no one sees us why bother in the first place; me not taking sides, simply observing.
Having social media tools available underlines something else as well, highlights something extraordinarily exciting: social media knows no borders, it creates a level playing field. Our Turkish neighbors are as chatty and information hungry as we are, we are all sitting in the same online bubble regardless of language or other individual features. Hence social media helps us to better understand the inter connectivity of our existence and our world. It makes us smaller amongst millions and billions yet much bigger as a person at the same time.
The only downside one detects is linked to the analysis of how long we spend per day glued to our handheld or desktop devices, respectively. If waiting for the next notification by our favorite chat group becomes more than a part-time passion and turns into a permanent obsession something is wrong. The moment social media becomes the one and only substitute for previous face-to-face contacts we should pull the emergency brakes and switch off.
Leaving this fine print user warning aside the Kusadasi social media scene is very entertaining, extremely informative and absolutely necessary to keep us all connected. It shows that having relocated and moved to another country is a fascinating undertaking that helps us to reinvent ourselves, to open a new chapter. And it is so encouraging to witness that we enjoy sharing our personal stories and experiences with others, it brings out the helping others – dimension in us.