Sunday, 6 February 2011

On Being an Expat in a Facebook World

WEDNESDAY: Lunch today is some gorgeous Waitrose houmus with toasted pine nuts and whole chick peas with Primula, spring onion, and red pepper on a fresh wheat breadcake. This is my first work lunch this week, as I was off for two days with a bit of an achy chest and a wonderfully sexy but irritatingly scratching hoarse voice. I can finally speak again, as the hoarse has gone out to pasture.

This weekend I successfully completed my birthday week after starting celebrations on the previous Sunday. Although I believe everyone should celebrate their birthday for at least a week, it's even more important when one's birthday falls on a Monday like mine has this year. In that case, the two surrounding weekends definitely count.

THURSDAY: Lunch is a Things That Need Finishing sandwich: a bit of olive marinated tofu with some Waitrose aubergine mayonnaise on a white breadcake, with spring onion, red pepper, black and Cayenne pepper, and fresh basil. One might call it a Greco-Japanese concoction, sort of a Samurai Parthenon. But then again one might not.

Although I received only two tiny birthday presents this year, and only three physical birthday cards, I received Facebook birthday greetings from lots of people including local friends and workmates, American friends, and distant cousins. Obviously this is because if one has their birthday on their Facebook profile, then all of one's Facebook friends who opt in to birthday reminders (which is undoubtedly a default setting), then receiving all those Facebook greetings is no surprise and merely indicative of how many of one's Facebook "friends" happen to be logged into Facebook on the day of one's birthday or even the day after.

It's like a card that's passed around in an office on a circulation list: it's so easy to say "Happy Birthday -- Have a great day - x" and feel like you've made somebody's day without having to go through the effort of buying a card or a present and without having to remember a date.

And to think that not so long ago we didn't even have e-mail. My god, how did we survive?

Obviously Facebook has its life-negating aspects, such as providing a public platform for people to post their level of boredom, their lack of sleep, their disappointment that there's nothing good on telly tonight, or their suicide notes. But the fact that in the mornings before work, when I quickly log onto my computer to check my e-mail, I have found myself chatting several times with a British friend who lives in India whom I haven't physically seen or spoken to for 15 years, or that I can see how an American friend's travels through the UK are going on a daily basis as she uploads her photos, show how truly amazing this Facebook phenomenon can be. When one moves to another country and lives so far away from one's family and old friends, the ability to connect instantly brings a bit of magic into one's life.

And if I want to be left alone in my foreign reverie, the solution is so simple: just don't turn on the computer.

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