“Having access to internet is more important than water in today’s world”. I remember my previous landlord telling me this and whilst initially this statement seems like an exaggeration, when you come to think of it, it’s kind of true. I mean, what is the first question you ask when you first step foot in a foreign destination. Is it: can I have a cup of water or does anyone know the password to the Wi-Fi? Whether we like to admit it or not, accessing some form of social media has become a fundamental part of our day-to-day lives.
Now as an international student, the use of social media becomes even more essential because it’s kind of like a gateway between your life back home and your current life abroad as a student. With that said, this gateway has its advantages and disadvantages.
I hate to sound cliché but personally the greatest advantage of having social media is that it “truly has made the world a smaller place” (sounds like a typical advertising slogan). But seriously being able to instantly connect with all my family and friends back home comes a long way to reducing home sickness or feeling isolated. I feel this aspect of social media puts everything in perspective when studying abroad as you don’t feel like you’re missing out on things back home whilst also enjoying your own university experiences.
Another huge bonus for having social media is tracking all the events going on in campus and around the city. As an international student or when you’re generally not a local it could be pretty tricky and daunting to find out what’s going on at different times in such a huge city or campus. It’s fair to say that about 90% (not based on any calculations) of the time I find out about events happening in university or the city as a whole through social media. Even from an academic perspective I was surprised at how powerful a tool social media is with regards to getting my content out there and networking with people relative to my field of study.
With all that being said, now it’s time to dive into controversial territory. I believe offering international students the privilege of being able to instantly connect with people back home makes us complacent and put less effort into socialising with new people here in the UK. Let’s face it; on a typical cold winter day, it’s a whole lot easier to go through your phone and talk to people you already know rather than putting yourself out there and socialising. Till this day I always wonder how many people could I have met whilst sitting on the bus or when waiting in a queue if I made an effort to talk to the person next to me instead of skyping or whatsapping people back home.
Also, let’s be honest with ourselves, when we go to all these interesting venues and events, how many of us are more concerned with how we present it via social media than actually enjoying ourselves. It’s literally become all about getting that picture or video and sending it to people back home or putting it on Facebook and Instagram. I mean it’s fair to assume that the pre-social media generation (if that’s even a term) who studied abroad were not going around holding selfie sticks; they were really embracing their experiences and mingling with the locals truly spreading vibes of an international voyager.
So all in all the importance of social media especially when being an international student cannot be undermined and I am grateful for having the privileges that social media offers. However, maybe the next time we walk around the city or attend an event we should consider interacting with the environment instead of having earphones in our ears and eyes glued to our phones.