Being an expat today isn’t what it used to be at all.
With a good smartphone we carry an entire social circle in our front pocket. The other day it dawned on me that I might be somewhat “cheating” as an expat because of this technological advantage. In the darker years, expats who didn’t have their social circle to summon with the flick of a finger became pressed to socialize in any way they could muster and this natural tension probably lead to the kind of social adaptation that leads to proper cultural assimilation.
Today, however, it becomes easy to take the path of least resistance. Instead of going to a coffee shop or a pub or a meet-up, it becomes all too tempting to just plop onto my couch after work and nurse on the Facebook teat, maintaining the order and continuity of life as I used to know it, and feeling great about the fact that my friends still get to experience and remember me even though I departed the United States over two years ago.
All that changed last week when I threw 1,200 friends in the trash. I consider a few hundred of them to be irreplaceable friends that I don’t even know how else to contact and I’m kinda worried that they took it personally. Not that I would even know what they’re saying. The only way to communicate to them now would be to let them Google me and find this blog post. Perhaps they could write a comment below. Time will show whether this is as effective as sending smoke signals across oceans.
But alas, the situation is really not so stark, because all I did was deactivate my Facebook profile. A simple attempt to log back in would restore my account to normal and even conveniently show me the accumulated notifications that I missed out on during my hiatus. Cool feature, Mr. Zuckerberg!
There are probably more than a few people who might be betting that I’ll surrender this insane mission which has severed me quite violently from the many people who I respect and admire.
What surprises me more than anything, however, are all the hidden penalties of making the decision to leave this
website, social network, platform, social utility.
Turns out by deactivating my account, I no longer have a way of even contacting a person I met recently who invited me to a New Year’s Eve party in Beirut where I currently live. As I know very few people in Beirut, the lack of Facebook is even having an effect on my ability to grow new social circles!
In more ways than one. Just think of the awkward pauses that could arise when explaining to any girl I fancy that I “don’t use Facebook”. Isn’t that simply today’s equivalent of showing up to a meeting without a business card?? If anything, I will deprive her of that very necessary ability to snoop around and verify that I am indeed committee-approved with lots of friend to vouch for the fact that I am not a serial murderer.
Mark Zuckerberg, was this your plan all along? If so, then I can only imagine how you would respond to this blog highlighting some fantastic Facebook feature that would allow me to break into Lebanese society much easier. Doubtless, it will be via the liking of some page or app or via the “frictionless” poking of something or other in the very vast world of Facebook.
So I guess with this new curmodgeonly attitude you may officially call me a double expat now, estranged from both the United States and the great nation of Facebook.
- “Social media ‘invaluable for expats” – Telegraph
- “Social media makes it easier for expats to stay in touch” - ExpatForum.com