Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Why expats love social networks

When my parents moved to Hong Kong in the 1970s, they were essentially cut off from the rest of the world. Phone calls to the UK were only made in emergencies, or on Christmas Day after the Queen's Speech. Air mail letters took several days to reach home, and were mainly exchanged between family - friends only tended to communicate at Christmas card time.

But moving to America in 2009 was a totally different story. Yes, I missed my friends, but I knew almost as much about what they were up to as when I lived in London. Thanks to email and particularly to Facebook, I didn't forget what their children looked like or how they were growing up, or what the significant events were in their lives. Not only that, we were able to comment on the same world events, even gossip about stuff via message threads. For keeping in touch with family, there was Skype - so my children didn't have to forget what Grandad looks like or who their lovely great Aunt is.

I was asked to contribute to a blog post on this subject by relocation company Robinsons. What struck me is that it seems most expats agree - whatever you think of Mark Zuckerberg, (and I'm looking forward to reading Dave Eggers' book The Circle which takes a satirical look at social networks), Facebook and Skype are invaluable inventions if you're living apart from friends and family.

Now that we're back from the US, at least I can keep in touch with my American friends in the same way. I have to say that I already feel I'm losing touch with the ones who aren't on Facebook (although I'm encouraging the Facebook refuseniks to at least download Skype. After all, that doesn't have any privacy implications, which I presume is why they are reluctant to join). 

If you live abroad, what's your favourite way of communicating?

11 comments:

MsCaroline said...

Definitely FaceBook and Skype, but since many of my friends have iPhones, we text each other using the messaging feature (I don't know what it's called, but if you have an iPhone, you can text anyone anywhere without extra charges even if its out of the country.) I text pretty regularly with #1 (at Uni) and several of my friends - just little comments like we might do back home, but it makes a huge difference. Lots of my friends here use Kakao Talk (free texting app, international) which is basically the same idea, but I find the iPhone app to be a little more efficient. Either way, it is all so much better than what (little) we had when I was growing up overseas!
(And I have to add - that photo of you on the moving site is darling. You don't look old enough to have 2 little boys, though!)

Nota Bene said...

I live in England, but Mum is in Cyprus...so we talk on Skype (it does make a big difference to a normal telephone call, and she reads my blog...seems to work pretty well!

Kit said...

I totally agree - Skype and Facebook are the main ones for keeping in touch with family, and even the ones who can't cope with all that technology can manage email!

The idea of my blog used to be to keep in touch with family, but I've found that most of them are non-bloggers, so it's ended up keeping me in touch with a new circle of friends, while trusty Facebook looks after the rest.

Muddling Along said...

Skype / Facetime have made such a difference - it's amazing how seeing people to talk regularly makes a big difference in connection and keeping in touch

Heck I'm working away this week and will see my girls to kiss them goodnight from my desk

About Last Weekend said...

In fact its funny, a friend who is very active on Facebook said she's not bothering to go back to her High School reunion in Boston this year because she's as caught up as she needs to be from Facebook!

DD's Diary said...

My brothers both live abroad, and I did too for years, so Skype has been great. We now use Viber a lot - free if you all have iphones. The line quality is variable but it's very handy!

Was Living Down Under said...

We used to use skype when in Australia. The girls would chat with their grandparents. After our first year in Sydney we came home for a holiday. I still remember my then 15 month old (who had been 2 months old when we moved) staring at her grandmother's face as if thinking "I know this face". And her almost three year old sister just touching her gran's face as they spoke. Priceless.

anita jolly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lucy Campbell said...

Agree - as an expat child it's good to feel connected these days and so never too far away. My parents were in HK in the 70's/80's - were you there too? Lx

Family Affairs said...

You appear to be getting a bit of spam!!

it's Lucy from Family Affairs and other matters btw - not sure it comes up with my details!

nappy valley girl said...

Hi Lucy
yes annoying spam and I can't seem to delete them!

Yes I was in HK from 1976-1990. Where did you live and what schools did you go to?