Not that long ago a lot of people moved overseas without a chance to keep in touch with their relatives and friends who stayed behind. The political regiments of USSR, Czechoslovakia and other totalitarian countries for decades banned any contact with betrayers who chose freedom and left.
Back in those days, immigrants knew that they had to reestablish their identity completely in a quest for a better fate. There was no way back, just a life of new experiences and acquaintances; and – alas – everlasting nostalgia for their past. This feeling is well described by Milan Kundera, the famous Czech author who had to flee from his beloved Prague to France, where his political views were more welcome than in Communistic Czechoslovakia. Eventually, he received French citizenship, yet his novels always reflected the undivided love for his homeland.
It’s amazing to see how different immigration is today, when digital technology allows immigrants to stay in touch with their past as never before by reading native press online, watching YouTube broadcasts with their favourite TV-shows, listening to digital radio in their own language and, of course, interacting with their old friends on facebook.
I’d like to discuss the last one a bit further for several reasons. Firstly, we gotta admit the fact that facebook is engraved in everyday routine of 500 000 000 people worldwide and counting. And secondly, I am addicted to white & blue screen myself.
Maybe it’s just the friendly interface of social media portal, or a positive psychological effect of white & blue combo on my tranquility level, who knows? Probably not, though. According to that logic, the mankind should adore Israel and its flag just for being white & blue. Just wondering if UN would become friendlier to Israel if its flag had a facebook ad in its top left corner?
Anyway. About a week ago, I decided to conduct a formal experiment: I wrote down how many times I came across the word ‘facebook’ during one day, which came to. . . 16 times. I thought about facebook early in the morning; I checked it before brushing my teeth; I overheard a conversation about facebook on a tram; one of my lecturers discussed the impact of facebook on the publishing industry, while half of the students made sure to use the legendary social network during class to schmooze with their mates secretly, making an impression as if they conducted a meaningful research for the sake of class.
Later on my friend from Russia texted me to let me know that she uploaded her baby’s photos on facebook, which took up my evening, as I skimmed through pictures, watched funny videos, read lengthy jokes and posted up ridiculous statuses of my own until it was too late to do homework.
When I just moved to Australia (about 2 years ago) I did not want to meet new people in Melbourne; I just sticked to my facebook friends from past, convincing myself that this interaction was more than enough. As time went by we had less topics to discuss; I suddenly realised that sharing photos and videos does not make your friendship last.
So, at this point I am not sure if facebook makes immigration pains any easier to bear. On the contrary, it leads immigrants to the illusion world of fake reality, where they are surrounded by silhouettes of their friends, who are ready to play Farmville and Mafia Wars with them, comment on their pictures and ask, from time to time, how they are.
But the truth is that the keyboard buttons block the real answer, making us consistently reply ‘great, mate’, no matter how tough life may be. And therefore…
Sorry, guys. . . gotta go. Someone just commented on my facebook status.