If you are a TCK, like me, who remembers growing up without the internet, you may have noticed some trends in people’s behavior online these days that aren’t so foreign to you. Here are 7 ways TCKs are ahead of the times before the advent of the digital age.
1. Sustaining Long Distance Relationships.
Long before people “friended” others from across the world and keep connected through social media, TCKs managed to sustain long distance relationships. Starting with grandparents, cousins, and other relatives, many TCKs grow up worlds away from their beloved family members and intentionally stayed in touch through letters, expensive phone calls, and mailing care packages. TCKs quickly learn how to maximize the short periods of time they are physically present with loved ones on those rare trips “home”, and carry this ability to adulthood. We have perfected the art of cultivating distance relationships before line texting and twitter.
2. Forums, Groups, Circles.
These days, none of us are just one thing anymore. We are defined by more than just the one job we hold; we have second jobs, freelancing, hobbies, families, causes, church, and more. This is reflected in the various forums and groups we participate in online, communities congregated around common interests. Our lives seem more fragmented and compartmentalized than ever before. This is how TCKs have always felt. We were raised to hold in tension all the social groups we belong to simultaneously. We have our family in our passport country, our friends in the local culture, our school-mates, our friends from the sending mission/consulate/organization, and as we move around to different locations, friends from each corresponding country. Before we used google circles to frame our lives, we learned to move seamlessly between organic social circles.
3. Familiarity with Stories.
The blogging enterprise has afforded the public with access to stories. We feel like we are BFFs with certain online personalities because we have followed their intimate life journey through the stories they tell. TCKs are formed by story. Something about globe trotting adventures provide amazing fodder for the most fantastical stories. All TCKs can easily reach into their memory file and tell the hero stories we were told growing up. We were inspired by former founding missionaries, the courageous stunts of war heroes, the groundbreaking pioneers of local village leaders. Before blogs populated our online lives, we were connected to our own flavor of celebrities via the kaleidoscope of stories we were given.
4. Exposure to other cultures.
The internet offers everyone, regardless of where we live in the world, a window into the lives of other cultures. But before the photos of 20 bedrooms around the world ever trended online, us TCKs actually lived in a few of them.
5. Exposure to other ideas.
Very few of us can expect to post an opinion online and expect all of our 600+ friends on social media to agree with it. We are bombarded with controversial, polarizing ideas constantly. Before the internet, one can live fairly safely ensconced within a homogenous community where everyone pretty much thinks and lives through one single worldview. That is, unless you were a TCK, and as a baby you were held in the arms of aunties and uncles from 12 different nationalities. TCKs grow up confronting a variety of cultures and religions. In this way, I really believe TCKs are thought leaders in this generation, helping guide and pave the path forward in finding solid ground to stand on in the midst of conflicting ideologies.
When did we start caring about what people ate for breakfast, what random signage they saw on the side of the road, and what character they were in Friends?
Answer: after the onset of social media and Buzz Feed quizzes.
Answer for TCKs: whenever our parents decided it would be a good idea to raise us in small expat communities where everyone’s business is fair game.
We called the small international school we grew up in, the Bubble; and the walls of the Bubble has ears, and what can trend faster than the latest viral twitter hashtag? The grapevine of the Bubble. TCKs, you know what I’m talkin’ about.
7. The grass is greener on the other side.
The internet has brought us an envy complex as everyone posts their happy moments on social media and hides the messiness. It’s hard, particularly during the inevitable down seasons of our lives, not to ooze jealousy over friends’ seemingly perfect lives reflected in beautiful family pics and celebratory announcements. The grass on the other side takes on a few deeper shades of green when viewed online. Unfortunately, TCKs also know this feeling with far too much familiarity. Part and parcel of cross cultural living is there is always something to miss. When I’m in America, I miss Taiwanese snacks. When I’m in Taiwan, I miss Tex Mex. Perhaps not everyone craves food the way I do, but the point is, we are always longing for what we have left…again.
And this is why, even though the internet may not be quite as revolutionary to TCKs as it is to others, we are saved by it. Because this technological marvel gathers each piece of our hearts that are scattered throughout the world and brings them home wherever we are. Each status update, instagram pic, or video upload that lights up from places in the world we used to call home revitalizes our soul and we feel once again, the vibrant beat of our global hearts.
**TCKs, what did I miss? Can you add to the list?