Friend Host Community Nationals on Facebook or Not?

April 23rd, 2015 by | Tags: , | No Comments »

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, I worked for a non-profit organization full-time for two years. I made a policy not to friend any of my colleagues on Facebook while I was working at the organization. I had nothing to hide on Facebook. I just wanted to set clear boundaries between my professional and personal life. I didn’t want to bring my personal life to work. I also didn’t want my colleagues to think that my spending time socializing with friends at pubs and restaurants would be an interference at work.

When I joined the Peace Corps, I debated whether or not I should be Facebook friends with Host Community Nationals, people who would be my work partners. I was already Facebook friends with many Peace Corps Volunteers from my group prior to moving to Cameroon because we needed each other’s support to share our ups and downs and answer each other’s questions relating to the big move. However, for Host Community Nationals, I was on the fence. These were the people with whom I would be working everyday on various assignments to improve the lives of persons with disability. I had very similar concerns as I had when I was working at the non-profit in the US. On Facebook, I post many photos of my social life and share my challenges of living in Cameroon. I did not want my work partners to think that my social life would affect my quality of work. When they read about my down moments, I didn’t want them to wrongly think that I hate Cameroon and their culture.

Shortly after arriving in Cameroon, I learned that Peace Corps is not just a job. It’s a way of life. My work partners aren’t just people with whom I work. They are also my friends who are learning about an American’s perspective of living in Cameroon. They are also my biggest supporters, meaning that they are there for me to help me integrate into the Cameroonian life. I decided to let them be my Facebook friends. Almost all of them sent me friend requests, and I accepted all of them.

Since I gave them the access to my entire profile, they have been given a window into the life of an American living in Cameroon. They have been learning more about how an American feel about living in Cameroon. They learned that I highly value internet as I have expressed frustrations about the lack of quality of internet in Cameroon. They learned about what food people in the western world enjoy eating as I posted pictures of what I have cooked in my own home. My posts has allowed my Cameroonian friends to share their point of view of my challenges. For example, I posted a status about my conversation with a Cameroonian man on religious beliefs and how people should practice their religion. I said in the status that the Cameroonian man tried to persuade me to read the bible and believe in god while I told him that he needed to respect my belief, which was different from his own belief, and recognize that I’m from a country where we have diverse beliefs and religions. A Cameroonian friend commented under my status and explained that most Cameroonians are generally very respectful of everyone’s beliefs but it is true that people do take religion very seriously in their country. By having my Cameroonian friend comment, my friends from the US and other parts of the world were able to see insights from the people who are from the very country where I’m living. On another day, I posted a status about my learning that wheelchairs are almost nonexistence in Cameroon and wishing that we could bring in power wheelchairs made for rough terrains to Cameroon. A couple of wheelchair users from the US who were my Facebook friends shared their concerns about whether or not power wheelchairs can work in Cameroon. My Cameroonian friend who is a power wheelchair user chimed in and shared her perspective with them on how power wheelchairs can actually work in Cameroon. When I burnt the back of my leg last week by accidentally touching the gas pipe on a bike and shared the news on Facebook, my Cameroonian friends wrote “Ashia!” and thus, my friends from other parts of the world learned how Cameroonians say “I’m sorry.”

Using Facebook is an incredible way to fulfill Peace Corps’ second and third goal which is to teach each other about our own cultures. I have really found that being friends on Facebook with Host Country Nationals has far more benefits that not allowing them to see what I write on my profile page. Facebook allows my family and friends in the home country and my host community nationals connect with each other while being several thousands miles away and learn from each other.

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