How Social Media Helped Me and Hurt Me as an Expat

The Good

  1. International Schools use social media as a way to quickly get information out and to connect expats with each other

This is a fabulous tool as a parent especially when it comes to meeting a lot of people very quickly. Seeing names and faces together over and over helped me learn who everyone was. It also gave me the resources to ask questions and figure out my new city, new neighbourhood and the new school that my children were entering in a much quicker timeframe than I would have on my own. It provided an immediate virtual support system.

  1. I made my first friend because she looked me up on Facebook and sent me a message

This friend moved to Denmark at the same time as I did and had heard of me through the company we moved with. She turned out to be my closest friend during that time. We may not have connected otherwise and I am so grateful she reached out.

  1. Facebook allowed my family back home to see what we were doing and this helped me feel less guilty at having moved so far away from them

This was an easy way to make sure that we were all still connected to each other. It helped to close the distance and I didn’t feel so far away. It also provided a quick way to keep up in emergency situations or when newsworthy events were happening in Canada sometimes as they were happening.

The Bad

     4.   Facebook portrays the best of everything and on bad days this made me feel like I was failing at my cool new life

People generally post only the good, me included. And while many of my photos were amazing this didn’t tell the whole story. I wasn’t living a 2 year vacation as a lot of my friends thought. I still did laundry and grocery shopping and cooking and cleaning. My kids still got sick…a lot. I often felt tired and like I was failing at being a parent. I was still doing all the same day-to-day stuff they were. Sometimes it was an amazing bonus that I was getting to do all of this while learning about a new country and meeting new people. Sometimes it was terrible that I was doing all of this on my own away from my support system. I didn’t generally post about that just as my friends and family didn’t post about their bad days. It was important to remember to check in beyond a post or photo or status update.

  1. When it was time to move back home, Facebook was a constant reminder that life went on and that my friends continued to have amazing experiences.

Facebook increased my homesickness when I left Canada and also when I returned. It helped to make the reverse culture shock worse as well. Instead of jumping into my new life in Canada, I kept one foot in the country I had left for a long time.

 

I am grateful for social media and the connections it has allowed me to have to many people I have met through my travels over the decades. I am able to keep in touch with people from many different countries. However, there are days that I have to remind myself that despite the idyllic posts, nobody’s life is fabulous all the time and without touching base I don’t know the whole story.  It is important to make actual contact and sometimes social media gives us a false sense of contact.

How has social media helped or hurt you in a specific situation?

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11 thoughts on “How Social Media Helped Me and Hurt Me as an Expat

  1. Thanks for these insights, Alison. I find myself finding positives for all the negatives on social media, as you do. When my son was living in Paris last year and the terrorist attacks happened, we knew within minutes – through email and Facebook – that he was OK.

  2. You speak about many points that I too found while living abroad. I heavily relied on social media to keep updated on what was happening at home. However, as you mentioned it wasn’t always a positive experience. For as much as I am grateful that it was so simple to keep in touch and updated, there were often times that I found myself resentful about what I was missing while being across the World.

    However, the biggest thing I take from your post is the point you make about social media only portraying the positive highlights of life. I’ve read many past articles that illustrate how social media can often take a negative toll on your mood due to the overwhelming need to be as happy and positive as so many people portray everyday on the internet. It’s something I find myself cautious of when judging the path my life has took compared to others on my social media accounts. It’s always important to remind yourself that it’s a lot easier to post the positive, happy moments then any struggles your facing in life.

  3. Interesting article. I feel like I have heard many ppl say the main core good and bad about social media. I for one have never logged into facebook so I have never experienced “reverse home sickness” when coming back home from a posting. I don’t foresee ever using facebook and after this years election and how (badly) it was used for a Trump, presidency, I think I may have to sit FB out haha. On the other hand, I do notice I am invited last minute to gatherings and getting important family news. This isn’t all bad as I am still young enough to remember what it is like to get phone calls about these types of things and I continue to encourage phone calls 🙂

  4. To be fair to social media, I did experience reverse homesickness when I lived overseas in my 20s before social media was a thing. It’s part of the experience for me. However, being able to see every single day what I was missing, at home or abroad, was a difficult thing.

  5. I really enjoyed this article! It’s very true that you often only see the happy/positive aspects of people’s lives on social media and I know for me that makes it really easy to make comparisons to my own life. It’s so easy to get discouraged looking at other people’s accomplishments and experiences. Even though i’m happy with my life and the direction I’m going in I sometimes feel like i’m falling behind.I often have to remind myself that people pick and choose how they portray themselves on social media, and what you see might not always be the whole story.

  6. There were many truths here, and I appreciate you highlighting for me some of the more positive aspects of being active on social media. What strikes me most is the courage you’ve displayed, both in moving away from your traditional family — with children — to pursue a new life and learning experience in another country, and in being willing to embrace the tool to launch new relationships and keep your most important connections strong. Even better, you’ve taken the time to analyze social media and its impacts, and to set a context and limits that work for you on a personal level.

    Guess I’m going to have to find some courage!

    • Thank you for your comments. It does take some courage to move around but in my experience, it has always been worth it. Social media has made some of it easier. It is definitely easier than it was back in my backpacking days when I would need to search out an internet cafe with a dodgy connection and quickly read and type emails to as many people as I could in an allotted time.

  7. This Blog post seems to have really resonated with people, me included. My experiences are similar to yours, I have a bittersweet relationship with social media, particularly Facebook. Facebook is great for staying in touch, but for me personally, it is very impersonal. Very few of my Facebook friends show vulnerability in their posts and that is something that leaves me feeling disconnected somehow. I was mulling over doing my second Blog post on this subject and you may have inspired me to do so.

    • I agree, it can feel disconnecting. At the same time I do have a handful of friends who post honestly or who have a great sense of humour and there have been days when checking in on Facebook made me think “phew, I am not the only person who feels that way or is going through this!”. It seems with social media that I hold opposing viewpoints often. I guess, especially now that I am reading about and writing about it, I am becoming more aware of them.

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