Opinion
coronavirus

How to be a better expat on social media during coronavirus

Best and the worst of the expat population shows up on Facebook group

Isn’t it amazing how, even during a global catastrophe like coronavirus, there’s still time for Facebook?

Yes, the human race is imploding, but what are Tracy and Tim up to today?

Spoiler alert: Absolutely nothing, like everybody else.

I’ve personally found the time – in between sessions of sweet FA – to set up a coronavirus in Mexico group, which has more than 1,200 members. Pretty impressive, I know.

I’m proud as punch, obviously. When my grandchildren ask me: “Grandpa, what did you do for Mexico during the pandemic?” I can look them in the eyes and say: “Kids, I set up a Facebook group.”

And, of course, they’ll beam with pride. Much like I did when my own granddad spoke about risking his life to defeat Nazism.

But yet, as one of Mexico’s social media influencers, I think there’s probably more I can do to help. 

Perhaps, if I could be so bold, you wouldn’t mind me imparting some wisdom on how to be a better expat on social media at this time?

Because on my own Facebook group (yes, I’ll shut up about it soon) I’ve seen the best and the worst of the expat population.

The best post messages are like “keep in there, guys!” or “let’s have a round of applause for the first responders!”

The worst, however, are the ones that need addressing. Urgently.

For instance, I regularly receive posts with the sole intention of shaming others for the (not-yet-criminalized) offence of being outside.

Yes, the advice is to stay indoors. But, as Sarah DeVries points out on Mexico News Daily, that’s simply not an option for many Mexicans. And let me stress that point. Some people can’t stay indoors. Some people need to work. Some people need to find food. Hell, some people literally don’t have an indoors to be in.

To give you an idea of how bad it can get, I saw one expat rant about seeing a woman rummaging through trash, and I quote, “without gloves on.”

“Don’t you know how dangerous that is? You know coronavirus stays on objects for a long time?” she told the woman, completely unsympathetic to the fact that the lady was literally elbow-deep in other people’s waste.

So, with that person in mind, here is my first piece of social media advice.

Next time you find yourself about to criticize someone on a post, stop. Take a deep breath. That’s it, one big inhale. Then smash that backspace button until there are no words left. That’s it, smash it hard. Then smash it a bit more. Just in case.

The last thing Mexico (or the world) needs is a privileged expat telling everyone how to go about their day. We’ve got the world’s governments doing that. And they’re doing it with enthusiasm.

With that sorted, it’s time to move on to my second recommendation: stop reading and sharing advice from untrustworthy sources.

I know that as an expat, especially if you don’t speak Spanish, it can be difficult to know which outlets to trust. So, to help, here’s an example of someone doing it right.

To help promote my coronavirus group, I shared it across social media.

And for the most part, it worked, and people joined.

One man, however, posted a response which really irritated me: “Haha, I will not be taking advice from a travel writer.”

Ouch. That hurt. A direct shot to the ego.

But, of course, as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. We shouldn’t be taking coronavirus advice from a travel writer. Or a meme. Or even your best friend of 20 years who you love and adore and trust to the moon and back. The only advice we should be taking and sharing is that of the authorities.

We all know what to do now anyway. It’s the same thing the World Health Organization has been telling us for weeks. And I trust them much more than your best mate.

So next time you’re about to share some advice on social media, take a look at where it’s coming from. If it’s coming from a website ending in .gov (.gob in Spanish-speaking countries), it’ll probably be good. If it’s from a news site, question where they’re getting their information before sharing it.

And if it comes from some random, self-important travel writer popping up on your Facebook feed, give it a gigantic, huge, mega-wide berth. They’re not a trustworthy source.

Which, rather neatly, brings me on to my final piece of wisdom: use your social media to support Mexico’s local businesses and charities.

If a charity puts out a call for donations, share it. If a restaurant posts its delivery menu, send it to your friends.

Obviously, there are more meaningful ways to help. For the most part, expats are a privileged bunch and sharing the wealth is better than retweeting a pizza menu.

But, if you don’t have the disposable income right now, supporting local enterprises on social media is a noble alternative.

It doesn’t take much to click the share button. And it could genuinely save someone’s livelihood. Or provide enough cash to feed their family for a day. Or maybe it will just put a smile on their face. Which is more than enough at this difficult time.

In the end, it’s not hard to be a better expat on social media. You can be a force for good. You could even save people’s lives.

But you need to make better use of your Facebook energy. Stop criticizing others. And learn which sources to trust. Finally, and most importantly, use your posts positively. Support expats. Support Mexicans. Support businesses. Support charities.

That way, we can get through this horrible, crazy mess together. Trust me, I’m a travel writer.

Sam Murray is currently a resident of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.