Editor’s note: In this special Saturday guest post, Lisa Calabrese shares her Facebook experiences engaging with friends from different parts of the world. If you’ve traveled or lived and worked in other countries, you probably added new friends on Facebook. Did their online behavior seem interesting to you? Just as I was preparing this post, a friend Natasha shared a story from when she returned to visit her family in India: “Over there there’s no formality! ….People will see you tagged in a photo, and even if they don’t know you, they’ll add you. I got so many random friend requests.” And yet, another example of how when confronted with other cultures, the differences manifest digitally as well. Reading Lisa’s article makes me wonder…what kinds of behaviors am I exhibiting on Facebook?
After living abroad for the past few years I’ve collected a smattering of Facebook friends from across continental Europe. And besides now having a multilingual newsfeed, I like to use that one Anthropology class I took in college to pretend I know anything about intercultural human behavior. So using the tiny sample size of my friends list to make broad-sweeping generalizations, comparing different Facebook online presences has lead me to believe that a lot of our Internet selves depend on the social norms around us.
Now, the few times a month I post a picture or get tagged at that one friend’s birthday party, I know for certain half of the likes I get will be from my Facebook friends in Turkey. Does it matter that we haven’t spoken in months and they know no one else in the photo? No! They’re happy I’m alive and want me to know it with a like. So when I see their new selfie from their weekly prof pic update, I’m right there to give them a like back. (Selfie game in Turkey is strong. Once on a first date, a Turkish guy stopped in the middle of the street to take a selfie with me. Ah, modern romance.) And they loved connecting on Facebook. I had requests from the entire staff at work by the end of the first semester. I once stayed at a hotel and by the end of the week I had requests from the kitchen staff. That really happened.
And quite a few times after newly becoming Facebook friends with someone from Istanbul, I’d come back to my computer with 15+ notifications. Had an old friend trying to resurrect old embarrassing photos trolled me? No! My new Turkish buddy had genuinely gone through all of my pictures and liked them all the way back to 2009. And as baffling as I found this I have to commend them for their honesty. Because in all fairness, do I peruse albums of new friends? Of course. Do I remain completely undetected in fear that it’ll be perceived as creepy? Sure do. We even say ‘Facebook creeping’ to mean looking at people’s profiles, but isn’t that the entire purpose of a profile? So cheers to you, Turkish friends, for using Facebook as it was originally intended and having no shame in it.
So cheers to you, Turkish friends, for using Facebook as it was originally intended and having no shame in it.
All this seemed even more apparent to me coming to Turkey straight after a semester abroad in Italy. The few Italians I managed to add on Facebook seem effortlessly cool. I’m talking just a few pictures total that were probably taken with a film camera and don’t even really show their face. And that sepia lighting surely isn’t even a filter it’s just the Italian sun making me wish I could look that good in photos. I never think about how many photos of mine are the classic ‘smile straight into the camera in front of pretty background’ types until I creep on my Italian friends profiles.
And as for España, my current home and love, I think people here are as different on Facebook as they are between regions of this country. Some love that share button while others seem to have forgotten their passwords entirely. So hey, what do I know.
Everyone’s favorite blogger, Allison, asked me to write something for Yasmine because god bless her she found some things I said to be funny when we both lived in Ibiza. An unexpected perk of living abroad for me has become meeting other Americans that have also lived or traveled in other parts of the globe, and being able to share interesting stories about different cultural norms and practices around the world with peoples whose perspectives are similar to yours (You know, because nothing says casual dinner conversation with new friends like blanket social commentary of other cultures).
Featured photo: My friend Kimberly took her computer to the mac store to be fixed last december. She was disappointed to see this message show up....