Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

Why I dropped out of social media’s “expat” communities

Photograph of a Mario soft toy left abandoned on a street in Nagasaki, Japan

When I moved overseas I found myself in a swirl of “ex-pat social media”. Join in, went the advice, interact with people. Connect with people on Twitter. And dutifully I obeyed.

Yet within a few weeks I realised the whole experience was dragging me down. I grew tired of reading about another misunderstanding with language. Another “top 10 tips to learn the culture”. The general negativity that came with it. Conversations weren’t. Like any other form of social media they were just people venting and expecting others to join in or validate they were right.

So I quit. I ditched the “network” I’d tapped in to and went my own way.

Wind forward a couple of years and I decided to participate in Reddit again. I’ve found the business community there an interesting source of inspiration, and some of the tech people have pointed me in fascinating directions. Foolishly I joined a subreddit for people like me, who had immigrated to the country I now call home.

Only it had the same problem as Twitter.

It took me a while to realise it. There was a niggling sensation on the back of my neck when I looked through the posts. It wasn’t until I asked for help understanding a shift in my language patterns that the proverbial lightbulb went on. The advice dispensed was no doubt done in the spirit of open engagement, but often I was left wondering if the poster had read what I’d written, or just seen the title and started typing. Occasionally the comments were borderline offensive. Less occasionally they were useful and genuinely insightful.

Of course, I should not have been surprised. Social media is a reflection of wider society, albeit often pushed towards extremes. The anonymity it offers allows us to say things we might not otherwise say in polite society. Sometimes because that it what we believe and enjoy the freedom to say it. More often than not, I suspect it is for effect.

As immigrants perhaps we can feel like social media is a space to vent our anger and annoyance at how jolly unfair it is we don’t fit in. If that is what you want to do, then fair enough. I hold no grudge and wish you well.

Except this isn’t what I want.

I’m broadly a positive person (albeit prone to bouts of intense melancholy) and want to discuss ideas and solutions that push beyond what I already know. This is why I am on social media. Communities that cannot support this bold and noble cause are not ones I would wish to be a part of.

If that sounds grandiose and pretentious, then so be it.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.