As an expat, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. There are days that I gratefully turn to Facebook to solve mysterious Latino customs, or sift through mountainous responses to my questions with the help of my local and expat friends. Other days, I threaten to unsubscribe, cutting myself free from the time-consuming burden of ‘liking’, ‘defriending’, ‘befriending’, ‘hiding’, ‘status updating’, and ‘sharing’.
According to HSBC’s 2011 Expat Explorer Survey, a majority of expats use Facebook as their social network of choice. Even in countries where only 3-4% of locals use Facebook over half of expats are on the site a couple of times a week.
I confess that I am an Expat Facebook junkie. Awareness is the first step to overcoming an addiction. Honoring my newly found awareness, I have compiled a list of Facebook friends and foes for expats.
I make Facebook friends with people all over the world. One of the great things about living on Ometepe Island is that the world comes to us. We may live on a small island, but it is a world-famous Biosphere Reserve drawing thousands of tourists every year. Sipping my mocha latte at the Corner House Cafe, I make international connections with like-minded people almost everyday. Once we establish a face-to-face connection, my next question is, “What’s your Facebook name?”
2. Information Gathering
Lacking vets, biologists, seismologists, geologists, and ornithologists, and practically all other special ‘ists’ on our island, I turn to Facebook for answers. I can post pictures of injured animals I find, seek identification of snakes, fish, and other creepy crawlies…and I always receive an immediate response to my questions from my Facebook friends.
Before Facebook, I joined forums, such as The Real Nicaragua and NicaLiving seeking answers to questions pertaining to a potential or a new expat. I discovered that these forums always get dominated by aggressive, territorial types who make every thread into a chest-puffing exercise. I’m not surprised that people are getting sick of them. At least on Facebook you can block out the people who don’t add any value to information one is seeking.
Help me! What should I do for this injured bird?
My neighbors call it a Coral Negro. Is it poisonous?
This caused a ruckus on our beach today. The locals are afraid of this fish. Why?
Facebook is free! That’s a big plus for expats. It has a user-friendly interface, making it possible to post videos and pictures, chat with friends instantly, and promote my blog about compassionate cultural immersion and volunteer projects with one simple click. I’ve even turned on my teenage neighbors to Facebook..but, with a price. Check out the foes of Facebook technology.
4. Maintaining Family Connections
Our families are spread out all over the USA and Canada. I enjoy seeing the latest photos of newborns (especially baby toes…I love baby toes!), family reunions, travels, and heartwarming discussions of our families’ adventures through life.
Really…how many Facebook friends can one have and still be attentive to their posts? It takes up so much of my time scrolling and responding and trying to be a good Facebook friend, when I should be raking mangoes instead. I’ve continued my routine from my Gringolandia days… morning coffee and Facebook first. But, living in the tropics, I really need to change my routine. If I rake my mangoes and attend to my outside chores any later than 9 am, I’m a heat stroke victim.
See what I’m talking about?
2. Information Gathering
Yes, Facebook is a wonderful source of news and information. I have hundreds of pages and groups that I ‘like’. But, let’s face it, during an election year in the USA, the political posts are annoying as hell. Battles ensue daily. If I feel the need to respond to a particularly offense political post, which I OFTEN do, I have to spend the time fact checking, wading through propaganda, and exploring the media for an unbiased article. We ALL know that’s impossible. I try to ‘hide’ posts that get my blood boiling, but even that doesn’t work most of the time. I ask myself, “Why do I bother?” I live in freakin’ Nicaragua, a socialist country. *sigh* I really need to rake my mangoes! The fermentation and the sickening sweet aroma of rotten mangoes is making me sick as I fact check.
I thought I was opening the world to my teenage neighbors by helping them join Facebook. Instead, my house has become an internet café. My impoverished neighbors don’t have computers, let alone internet. What was I thinking?
Is this really progress? What have I done?
Plus, my internet connection is spotty. I had to make a special Woktenna to hold my dongle. Sounds intriguing doesn’t it? Check out my post, here. My Woktenna.
I feel like a pusher and I’m addicting them, too. Naturally, when they joined Facebook, they have to check it, right? Sometimes, they come to check their Facebook at the most inopportune time.
Sometimes, I lie to them. “No hay internet hoy. Talvez manana.” Then, I sneak onto Facebook…and have it all to my own. Shameful, right? I’ve resorted to lying to my impoverished neighbors…all in the name of Facebook.
4. Maintaining Family Connections
I have to choose my status updates carefully. Not many of my family members were overly thrilled with us retiring in a ‘third world country’, or at least their perceptions of a third world country. I can’t post that Ron has parasites because he doesn’t wash the mangoes that drop to the ground. I can’t post that I had to wash and dress a dead gringo because there are no funeral directors here. Nor can I post that I’m afraid the volcano in our backyard is going to erupt any day now because it’s long overdue. They would worry. And, besides, they never read my blog, only Facebook.
So, there you have it. My friends and foes of my love/hate relationship with Facebook. I’m curious to hear from other expats. How do you feel about Facebook?