I had a visitor over the summer, right before I left for America, with whom I had a lovely walk in the sunshine and a nice dinner before he succumbed to jetlag and went to bed early, leaving me to pack for my trip. We had an interesting discussion about expat life and the role of social media. I should preface this by saying that he’s an expat several times over, living now in a third country (and continent) from the one in which he was born and another in which he has lived. When it comes to social media and friends “in the computer” I’m a fan, he was not. I rely on my facebook and twitter peeps and bloggy friends to provide me with some structure. Although, as he noted, if the people are all in the computer, are they real people? Do you end up feeling MORE lonely instead of LESS since you don’t have the human connection that comes with “real” people in your life?
It was an interesting question, and one that I have pondered on more than one occasion since that discussion. Do I think of myself as lonely? I obviously have plenty of time to myself, and spend a great deal of that time sitting in front of the computer communicating with strangers. But I’m ready with my rebuttal now, a few months after the fact. Because the people stuck in my computer have, on more than one occasion, transmogrified into real people. In the last six months or so, I have met up with Kat from 3bedroombungalow, Mike from Postcards from Across the Pond (and Pond Parleys) and, most recently, Michelloui from Mid-Atlantic English. All American expats, all living here in the UK, all blogging about our collective experiences. And people who I can now consider friends “in real life” because they have crawled out of the computer and into the restaurants in my neighborhood. Pretty cool, that. So I will keep justifying my hours spent on social media, and thank my lucky stars for the fantastic friends I’ve met through this computer screen.