Ways Social Networking Sites Can Make Expatriation More Difficult
Unsurprisingly, social networking sites like Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter are increasingly used by Expats in order to keep in touch with home in an affordable and convenient way.
As well as helping you keep in touch with old friends, social networking sites can help you meet new acquaintances in your host country, make you aware of career opportunities, help you find accommodation and make getting to know your area a bit easier.
However, while social networking can help smooth the way to expat happiness, it can also hinder your success overseas…
Social networking sites are an incredibly useful tool if you use them in the right way. It’s so important to make sure that you’re using the most suitable social media tool for your purposes and that you’re targeting your audience in the most effective and appropriate manner.
Consider what you want to get out of your digital presence (friends, a job etc) and tailor the register you write in and the images you include to those needs. Setting up a professional profile on LinkedIn could make you more employable, having ‘Cowlover’ as your screen name probably won’t.
And as any Twitter addict will attest it’s all too easy to get caught up in the digital world.
For expats feeling out of place in a strange environment talking to family and friends through social networking sites can be a huge comfort, but it’s important not to become too reliant on it.
Every hour you spend reading through banal status updates is an hour you could have spent exploring your new country, getting to know your neighbours and making non-digital connections. Before you log on remember that you moved abroad for a reason – and it wasn’t so you could sit inside staring at a computer.
After all, it will take far longer to settle in a new home if you spend all your time checking up on your old one!
Further to the previous point, as tempting as it can be to use social networking to build up a comforting circle of expat friends, it would be such a shame to move abroad and not make the most of the country’s cultural differences or get to know the locals. Whilst it is of course important to build a strong support network try to make that network a mixture of fellow expats and locals.
Lastly, first impressions count – and digital impressions can be accessed by anyone!
Potential employers/landlords/friends might very well check out your personal online profiles, and if they don’t like what they see your expat dreams could be over before they’ve even begun.
When your mates look at that picture of you doing a spot of topless table dancing it might inspire nostalgic memories of nights gone by, but a potential employer will view your actions very differently. Similarly, liking that photo of Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but three years and a relocation later it could give new connections a false impression of you.
Study your personal profiles and really question what image of ‘you’ they create. If it’s not the person you want your new countrymen to know than set the profiles to private, be more cautious of what you allow to go on them or take the more extreme step of deleting them!
As ever, when talking online to people you don’t know you should exercise caution. If you arrange to meet up with someone than pick a busy location and a sensible time, and bring someone else with you if at all possible. If you go alone let someone know where you’re going, who you’re meeting and when you’ll be back.