When you emigrate, your friends go from being fleshy companions whose physical company you quite like to modern-day pen pals. Binary buddies, if you will. Suddenly, your relationships live on your laptop. Life updates are now almost exclusively clusters of pixels you fling at the Internet and hope land on your friends’ retinas.
Mistakenly, we expats assume that distance makes other people’s hearts grow fonder of our minutiae. Self-awareness seems to wear off at about the same rate as jetlag, and then we start to make poor social networking decisions. Does that loaf of bread I bought this morning need to be: A) Eaten over a period of days then forgotten about or B) Instagrammed immediately because I BOUGHT IT IN NEW YORK? And what to do with that riveting photograph of me eating a sandwich made with said loaf… Hmm, I know, I’ll shove it on Facebook. I probably mean well and, to use an icky American expression, I’m just trying to ‘stay connected’. Well, tough luck, me. It comes off as boring and weird.
Good pals will tolerate this behavior (somewhat) if you’re on holiday, because they know it’ll stop (maybe) when you land and have to go back to work. But when you live abroad and carry on like this indefinitely, it makes the sensible people in your networks groan. Some of them will ‘hide’ you; others won’t be so kind.
But together, expats, we can conquer the social networking menace we’ve become. Let’s agree that the newly relocated have a grace period of a fortnight. In that window, shout virtually about your new life until your laptop wilts. After that, those artisan loaf snaps have to stop. Please please realize that your friends don’t need a blow by dull thwack over the head account of your day, just because YOUR DAY HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN.
There are other social networking landmines to step around when you’re a Brit living in the U.S. Spelling your status updates in American English, for instance, is never acceptable, even if you have more U.S. Facebook friends than British ones. Neither is parachuting in Americanisms to demonstrate how “naturalized” you’ve become, and how fast you’ve picked up the few words our nations don’t share. And don’t pretend that you write in American because you’re worried that your U.S. pals won’t be able to translate terms like “nappy” and “cash machine”. If this is true then you need some cleverer friends.
Of course, this treaty we’re scratching out will also stipulate that you can still Facebook or Tweet about your life a bit. Bantering on your wall every so often might actually keep you from jumping off of one on your bleaker expat days. Just remember to filter, and ration yourself to a couple of updates a week. Overpromote your new life and it will lose its mystique. Let me put it this way. You know how people’s babies quickly go from delectable cherub to irritating gnome when their wonky face fills your newsfeed all day? Well, this is just like that.
Finally, consider this: if you’d like a reaction to your perfectly sculpted status update, be aware of the time difference between here and there. It’s no good uploading a snap of that foot-deep pastrami bagel hilariously titled “Tower of bagel” at 3 am GMT. Save it for later. Or better still, keep it to yourself.
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