What good is it to have awesome pictures of burqas , pose with war junk , or wax ironic about pictures taken with celebs if Expat Aid Workers can’t share those pictures with the world? What’s the point of spending a small local fortune maintaining a pet, having a tropical disease or “going native” if you can’t boast about them to your friends? (Casually, of course… like it’s all no big deal.) Fortunately Facebook provides a medium for exactly this kind of Expat Aid Worker self-expression.
Facebook has revolutionized the way that Expat Aid Workers establish field cred. Thanks to Facebook, bitching about cold showers, showing off how they dress like the locals, or expounding astute and obscure local cultural knowledge (that will later be taught to locals) are no longer relegated to exclusive cocktail parties or between-session coffee breaks at life-saving workshops: Expat Aid Workers can do all of things things with a few mouse clicks for their entire repertoire of friends to see. Facebook is where the Expat Aid Worker will typically describe him or herself as a “Nomad” (location set to “global” or “everywhere”) – usually under a profile pic of him/herself brandishing an AK-47, or possibly a child of another race.
This is actually quite critical in situations where a very short face-to-face encounters don’t really allow for a full exposé of the Expat Aid Worker’s field cred. “Look for me on Facebook…” is code for, “I don’t have time to explain it right now, but if you read my profile and look at my photo albums, you’ll see what a seasoned, hardcore veteran I really am.”
It is important for Expat Aid Workers to learn to use the Facebook status update function properly, as this is where the hierarchy of field-cred gets established. For example, it is important to always appear jaded, cynical, melancholy, tired, or wasted. “So excited to be deploying to [DISASTER ZONE DU JOUR]!!!” will only single one out as a complete newbie. “Heathrow. Hammered. Flight to Karachi in 15 min…”, on the other hand, identifies an Expat Aid Worker who has been around long enough for the blush to have left the rose.
Enigmatic/poignant/humorous updates help, too. “Wasting Away Again in LRA-a-ville“, or “‘No Star Where’.. WTF?“, are great ways to let one’s non-aid worker friends know that he/she is a deep-thinking yet randomly light-hearted citizen of the world. Other Expat Aid Workers will probably fill the comments thread below such a status update with enigmatic/poignant/humorous/one-upping comments of their own (“You think LRA-a-ville is bad now, you should have been there in 1997“), all of which serve the dual purpose of further establishing/entrenching the field-cred hierarchy, and inadvertently confirming the nomadic character of the Expat Aid Worker to her/his non-aid worker friends.
As soon as you update your map of places you’ve been, joined an little-known-but-cutting-edge cause (and invited several Expat Aid Workers friends to join the same cause – just so that they know how cutting-edge you are), used the word “trepidation” in an online Scrabble game, and updated your location to “here and/or there”, be sure to drop by and check out the Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like Facebook Page.