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How has social media become an essential part of expat life?

Author: Matthew Theo
3 Minutes

How has social media become an essential part of expat life?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard the pros and cons of social media— it’s something we’ve read about and discussed at length. Some of us have even prohibited our kids from being on it until we feel they’re mature enough to be on it. I have to admit, with all the cons that come with it, as an expat family in India, it has really helped us stay in touch with our family back home. Though not a big social media user, I opened a Facebook account before moving to India. Simply because I can update everyone with one single post. I’m not sure I want to go through the pain of responding to the same questions from 20 different people every day!

In the article Finding Your Tribe in Crowded Delhi, Mimi Ruivah points out and aspect of expat life that isn’t usually addressed— loneliness and alienation. It’s not easy. I am lucky to be moving with my family. However, for those of us who have had to uproot our lives alone, it’s difficult to start all over again. And if you noticed, it is during the initial days of arrival that we’re glued to social media, the time when we feel the most alone, a new country, culture, and language. We’re looking for something new to experience while simultaneously looking for something familiar; social media bridges that gap.

…it is during the initial days of arrival that we’re glued to social media, the time when we feel the most alone, a new country, culture, and language. We’re looking for something new to experience while simultaneously looking for something familiar; social media bridges that gap.

I understand all the negativity that comes with the use of social media, there’s an entire study about active and passive social media users and how our usage of it affects us. Nevertheless, I’m also realizing that nothing is ever black and white. I am one of those parents who refuses my kids to be on social media, not yet at least. I’m not prepared to expose them to the harmful things that lurk out there. However, my son made a fair point a few weeks back, “Dad, social media is the only way I can stay in touch with my friends,” right after pointing out that I moved him across the world, into a new country. And now, with the current situation, he said he feels even more isolated— reminded me of my first taste of expat life in Delhi. So, my wife and I decided to relax the no social media rule a little bit. For the past few days, my kids have been sharing one Instagram account, which might I add they’re extremely thrilled about.

…my son made a fair point a few weeks back, “Dad, social media is the only way I can stay in touch with my friends,” right after pointing out that I moved him across the world, into a new country. And now, with the current situation, he said he feels even more isolated— reminded me of my first taste of expat life in Delhi.


We did set a few rules though, before handing them the reigns to their own Instagram,

1. They can only spend three hours (in total) a day on social media.
2. No matter what, they need to kind to people. We will not tolerate any kind of cyberbullying.
3. If at any point, someone makes them feel uncomfortable, they need to tell us.
4. They cannot block my wife and me from their social media.

This isn’t a piece about how I parent my children, but more about how the use of social media is beneficial for expats. I know that there is a lot of movement about going off-line, taking a breather from social media, but I’m not sure how relevant that is for us who live far away from our loved ones? At least I know I can’t, not because I’m addicted to social media, but currently, that is the only way for me to get in touch with family who live in different parts of the world. And if you’re reading this, I think we’re on the same boat. Happy social media-ing!

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