By Pier E MS
The ability to immediately and inexpensively communicate with their families makes life easier for international students and immigrants.
“When I came to Canada 25 years ago, the communication that I had with my family was basically by phone, which was very expensive. We also used fax sometimes,” says Francys Alvarez who was born in Venezuela and now has dual citizenship as a Canadian.
Alvarez says, “Not only is it cheap or even free now, but also the quality achieved can be extremely good compared to 20 years ago.”
In last two decades the world has seen immense changes in the way we communicate thanks to the Internet and the human need to stay connected to loved ones.
An article written by Andreas Bernström for The Huffington Post says, “Recent advances are bringing us back together, bridging the distance between families and friends and making loved ones feel closer and better connected than ever before.”
Although it has indeed shortened distances between families living abroad, people agree that it isn’t enough to fulfill basic human needs.
“Communication is easier with the development of technology, but it would never replace the real face-to-face interaction that we could have if they were near us,” Alvarez says.
In the past, a simple “Happy Birthday” call to a family member living outside your countries borders was a chore.
Having to get money cards, dialing all the area codes, and only being able to call landlines is limiting.
Now wishing a happy Friday to a loved one or anyone you want to, who lives far away, is easier than counting to three.
“Although there are lots of technologies helping people to keep in touch, that doesn’t mean it’s easier to live far away from them. Saying ‘keep in touch’ is different from seeing or living with the physical person,” says Lilly Wat a now Canadian citizen that was born in Hong Kong who has been living in Canada for 30 years.
“You can’t hug or touch the person on the other side of the communication. I guess the biggest difference is there is no fee to Skype,” says Wat.
“Not too long ago, technology served as a divider between generations. Parents saw their iPod-using, headphone-wearing kids as blocking themselves off from the rest of the world. And grandparents could hardly boot up a computer, much less figure out how to IM. Yet, as times have changed, we’re seeing formerly ‘divisive’ technologies connecting older and younger generations in ways never before thought possible,” says the aforementioned article on The Huffington Post.
Skype and similar video messaging services erase some of the loneliness and isolation experienced by students who can’t afford to go home.
Abdulla Nagi, a mechanical engineering student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), says, “Skype helped a lot,” when he lived in the United Kingdom. “It meant my parents didn’t have to buy phone cards and call me for like 15 minutes because the line would cut off.”
“Also Facebook not only helped me with keeping contact with family but also keep in contact with friends I’ve made all over the world. Its Wicked,” Nagi says.
In some areas of the world, where technology hasn’t made its way into daily lives, money cards are still widely used.
“This technological shift can only be sustained when both relatives have reliable phones. Phone and Internet access is a lot more stable, reliable and faster in industrialized nations, such as the United States, than in most low income emerging markets,” says Lucas de Soto for Urban Borderlands a Tufts University Website.