Back to the future- How social media and technology has changed for expats and travellers in 2017

When I left Australia in 2006 there was no Facebook. Yes NO FACEBOOK! No, Twitter, No Instagram, no Pinterest, no snapchat. Well, they may have been in existence in the US but it was early days. I don’t even think smartphones were a thing. Pretty sure we were all still rocking the flip phones.

Gosh, I sound really old.

I remember New Years Eve 2006 my friends were talking about this new website which was coming to England and It was set to be better than Myspace. That you could upload photos to, find friends (but better than friends reunited which let’s be honest wouldn’t be hard) and to send messages to friends over the internet with no charge. There wasn’t even an app it was just a website.  I also remember when I first signed up and no one I knew in Australia was on it. I remember wondering if it would even catch on.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently just how different living away from my family was only 11 years ago to how it is now. Which in itself has had drastic changes. Then I was thinking about when my parents moved our family to England in 1992 and just how different and hard it was for them. The world has changed a lot in 25 years!

In 2017 the Harris sisters meeting up in an airport would have been a Facebook status update but in 2007 it was just emailed to the parents. Oh we were so fresh faced

For me, in 2006 I probably spoke to my parents on the phone (always on a landline!) once a month as it was extremely expensive to call. I would have emailed a few times a month but would be completely out of the loop as to what was going on at home with the family or with friends. I wouldn’t see pictures of my family as again picture messages were very expensive and it was just a bit difficult to get photos from a camera to a computer to then email. Even sending an email I would need to go to the library to use the internet there.  I always felt quite disconnected with the goings on at home and it made it really tough emotionally. I always would get jealous of my friends who would go home to see their parents at the weekend and I wanted Australia to be just that little bit closer so I could pop home for a weekend break.

In 1992 my parents must have felt like they were on the other side of the universe rather than on the other side of the world. The contact with their parents, friends and family was few and far between.  International phone calls cost the same as a small car, there was no Skype, cameras still primarily used film, mobile phones were still bricks and could only keep 10 text messages at a time and you were charged by the number of letters. Areograms were written and received often, postcards of all the places we went were sent back and took like a month to get there. Nothing was instant. To get information on either side of the globe took time and for that year they were only able to get snippets from back home. For all the amazing experiences they had they couldn’t really share them with their parents or if they were missing home they just had to suck it up and wait till they were back on Aussie soil. They wouldn’t have even been able to see their own parents faces for a whole year!

Grainy family photo due to having to scan it in from a printed picture. The challenges of 1992. They obviously didn’t have razors in 1992 by the state of dads beard

Fast Forward 25 years and now  I can face time and speak to my parents face to face and even better I can  feel like I’ve been home (especially when my parents walk me around the house or perch the iPad up at the breakfast table like I’m there in the flesh), I have a group chat group  with my parents and sisters and with my besties so we can share the goings on in our lives as it happens. I can be on the other side of the world and still feel like I’m only an hour down the road from them.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I wrote a letter or postcard home but I could tell you where in Tasmania my mum has just been, through her Instagram and blog or i could tell you what my sister did after she finished work today. I can keep up with their fitness through runkeeper, I can see what my sister is planning for her wedding from her Pinterest board and I can know town gossip at the same time if not before my mum knows. It really has made those thousands of miles in between us seem so much smaller.

It’s not only changed keeping in touch with home but it’s also hugely changed how I view travel. I can now go on a website and find the best flights for my travels and not rely on a travel agent. I can stay in someone’s home on Airbnb rather than a hotel room. If I am going somewhere new I can look on Instagram to see what it looks like or the best places to visit. I can get a guide of what to see in any given country from Pinterest. We can read reviews on trip advisors or learn from other people through their blogs about their experiences and the good, bad and the ugly parts of destinations. We can get annoyed at the Begpackers on social media asking people to pay for their ‘journey of self-discovery’ , we can tag ourselves into places on facebook to show just how fabulous and awesome our travels are. I mean can you imagine how only 10 years ago we couldn’t upload the standard ‘my Monday is better than yours’ status update accompanied with a picture of a beach or beautiful view. The horror! We get an endless supply of wanderlust worthy travel photos on Instagram and that those hidden gems of destinations are just not as hidden as they once were.  It’s opened up the world both for the good and the bad.

I’ve read about how social media can make people actually more lonely than if they were interacting with ‘real’ in the flesh people. One website even said this was higher in expats as they are in a new place, still making friends and getting used to adjustment and changes in their life. I can see how this could be true especially if you don’t know ANYONE or if there is a language barrier but I’ve never felt like that. If anything it’s given me a greater connection with home which has allowed me to interact more in my day to day life as I’m  not sat around missing home. I used to get massive FOMO as I never really knew what was happening at home whereas, with technology and social media the way it now it feels like I’m closer to home, I can get involved in family activities by face timing, social media or just a simple WhatsApp message. I’ve met and maintained new relationships and I’ve had friends in similar situation help me through the tough parts of living abroad as they have done it themselves. So whilst I agree the rise of social media and new technology does have its negatives and downfalls I’d much rather have it as it is now than what it was like in 1992 or even 2006.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like in another 10 years. I’m hoping for teleportation pods but we’ll see…..

Have you noticed how social media and technology has changed for you either travelling or living abroad? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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64 thoughts on “Back to the future- How social media and technology has changed for expats and travellers in 2017

  1. Hahaha, well that brought memories back 🙂 My first trip to the big country of Australia in the seventies required NO passport. They no longer trust kiwis now, very sad!! Funny I still prefer writing emails or messaging than face time, especially to elderly parents as they miss most of the conversation!! Don’t you notice when you do go back it’s like you never left!! Great post, Melanie!

    1. Wow no passport! That’s crazy. I love being able to face time to see their face but agree with you as my grandparents don’t always seem as comfortable with face timing. Glad you enjoyed

  2. Social media and technology has changed for me as an expat.It makes the communication and contacts very convenient, but I still prefer talk to people in person and send postcards during my travels. It is old but a handwriting postcards and snail mails is valuable than any IG and Facebook updates.

    1. I wish I could send post cards I buy them, write them and then ALWAYS forget to send them. I completely agree you’ll keep the post cards and snail mail but the Facebook updates won’t be remembered 10 years down the line.

      1. I never look back on my Facebook states updates that I did 10 years ago, and I dont remember most of them. You are right, I still keep all the postcards I received. Have you thought of giving postcards to your friends in case you forget to send them? Just draw the stamps yourself. They are precious too.

  3. Great post Melanie, I really enjoyed your comparisons and how things have changed. I remember when we lived in England, my sister sent me a cassette tape (yes an actual tape!) of her telling me all the news and she added songs as well. It might have been because she was a radio announcer at the time but it was a great way to hear her voice and all the news. She put in the song, I still call Australia home which made me cry and you girls were upset seeing me cry. Great memories ❤️

  4. I remember being in aus and using Internet cafes and phone cards ! So crazy thinking back like that…. love checking places out on insta before arriving 🙂 nice post! Love your feature pic too.

  5. This is a really interesting post and you are right technology and social media have changed travel. When I was ‘younger’ (cough cough) you simply went down Thomas Cook, asked the woman behind the counter what she thought of resort in brochure and paid for your trip (if she said it was good).

  6. I’ve been thinking about this exact thing recently. You think aloud better than me!

    Slightly different for me. I moved to Scotland with my Dad nearly 25 years ago.

    My mother and that side of the family is in New York and elsewhere. I have notes and cards we sent before Facebook happened.

    I also have friends that have become family here.

    And now I’ve moved to Skye with Neil and Isla, and miss EVERYONE.

    I’m one of those movers who finds FB depressing, but I wouldn’t be without it. If I go a day without posting about Isla my Mom phones me up for an update. There’s some kinda phone tree that happens over there if there are no new photos RIGHT NOW.

    I’m closer to my cousins since we share our lives online, but I miss them more now than I did when I was a kid.

    So lucky that your fam can Skye properly, we just get extreme close ups of Mom’s neck.

    Yes, teleporters next!

    Lorna x

  7. Yes I think modern technology is a blessing for keeping in contact. Whilst I do miss receiving letters, what you get in replacement of that is fantastic.

  8. You speak such truth here! The world is a different place, the same, yet smaller, with all these Social Media devices we have! All hail Facetime and Skype though!