Welcome 2019! Using Technology to Build Community
Welcome 2019! What a year the last has been. I've been remiss in writing and I apologize. This year to hold me accountable and ensure that I had ideas, I've decided to set us a theme of technology. Technology is everywhere these days, we carry phones in our pockets all the time and there are smart homes and smart cars and little robots everywhere you go. How can we leverage this abundance to better integrate into lives back at home? What technologies are popular, what does appropriate etiquette look like, how do we stay safe, and when is it best to return to older forms of technology? I intend to help you answer all this and more, if you have other questions!
So on to the first - how do we use technology to better integrate into life at home? I find that this is generally a question of creating and establishing community, so that is the focus of this post.
It may be tempting to use some of the social media we see to post and respond to the same things we did overseas, but technology facilitates communities of interest and means we can also leverage it to find those near us with common or disparate interests and learn from them. Why not use a budding interest in photography to find a like minded community via Instagram - using your photos and those that you like to spark a conversation? Why not use Facebook posts to dialogue and schedule a catch up session in person with someone who is back in the same area you are? While many do use such platforms to curate their lives, this curation can also spark conversation and potentially lead to meetings in unexpected places. As always, this requires a really thoughtful engagement when you are listening to ensure that your presence is something that brings folks back to the conversation.
There also remain communities in things like meetup.com or maybe using internations in your home country to meet expats living in your area. Many folks use their professional community in whatever format to facilitate meetings - happy hours, book clubs, etc. Many of these can be found online.
When I returned to the U.S. most recently I decided to set myself up for a weekly trivia night. I used Google to figure out where trivia was and what nights it was hosted. Then I set up a group Whatsapp for trivia and sent out a weekly invite. It was fun and I saw a lot of folks who were also in town at the time - it was a wonderful and easy way to consolidate catch ups while also introducing friends to one another. Using technology to facilitate face-to-face meetups is incredibly useful as technology integrates our conversations with our lives - calendar invites are heavily relied upon and ensuring that a person's calendar finds the invite is a worthwhile exercise.
There is also some value in seeing your time at home like a tourist, it allows you to be more open minded and exploratory. Perhaps joining an "experience" from AirBnB would facilitate conversation on a topic you care about or introduce you to a community of like minded people!
While you will have to figure out who in your community is using what types of applications, some of the most popular that facilitate communication and community in the United States as of October 2018 are on the right from comscore.
Naturally, demographics and age play a role. If you click on the graphic above you can also see Comscore's insights on millenial usage.
For our purposes it's more critical to understand how the U.S. differs from overseas use. The rates of use are remarkable - if you were in Japan where Line is popular you may find the lack of penetration amongst U.S. communities remarkable. For comparison Statista provides this graphic:
Notably, overseas users use WhatsApp and WeChat at a far higher rate than in the U.S. where Snapchat is far more popular. One note of caution, this data does not include SMS use through the phone's pre-loaded applications. In the United States most people text via these systems, including iMessenger and Google Hangouts, over third party applications. Lastly, the good news, if you are a frequent Facebook messenger user the penetration of this program seems rather universal. We will talk through being safe online with such things in a future article.
We spoke of communities above and discovering them - naturally google is an avenue of access. However, so are things like libraries, discussed in this quarter's newsletter briefly. Making a list of your interests and what you wish to pursue for the next year or two in terms of interests helps to discover ways to nurture those interests. I have an enduring interest in history and spent a lot of my leave in the U.S. at the National Parks. I also consistently volunteer when I'm in the United States. So I found that the the National Park Service maintains a volunteer cadre and joined that when I returned - it's something that keeps me out at least weekly at a national park, but I found it through my use of the web. Stories like this are so commonplace they seem trivial, but can be easy to overlook in light of the negative coverage that technology often can receive. Use it wisely and to find ways to build your community.
Lastly, join the Nextpat Forum to meet others with similar stories and figure out if there is a community near you! We also can talk through some of this in our classes or through our consultations. Best of luck and Happy New Year!