They Just Don’t Get It: Doing Online Work in an Offline World

In a third world country like Bangladesh, the majority of people have never heard of YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, or Blogs. A lot of the reasons for this are practical: only a small minority of Bangladeshis are rich enough to have internet access (either through a PC or cellphone). Even if you are lucky enough to have an internet connection, that doesn’t mean you’ll be watching the latest viral video. It takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours to download a 3 minute clip from YouTube – even that requires a lot of luck.

What this means for me is that the work I am doing here – because so much of it is online – it can be a very lonely experience. Back home, my friends and family are very supportive of what I’m doing. When an article I write gets frontpaged on – my parents call me up to congratulate me. When I become one of the five to be nominated for the sxephil spotlight contest (voting is still open by the way), I got a very excited and enthusiastic email from my brother. I get kudos from my friends when they see that my videos on YouTube are getting good feedback and ratings.

Not so for my family here in Bangladesh. Instead of being able share with them the feeling of success that this project has had, I am instead finding myself have to justify what I am doing in the first place. “What you are doing on the computer is not the real world,” berated my uncle (not the military uncle I’ve mentioned in previous posts) earlier this night. And, in Bangladesh, he’s right. There is no such thing as “old media” and “new media”. There nothing “old” about traditional media here. It’s still growing, with new local newspapers and local TV stations (in both Bengali and English) popping up everyday.

The same is true for the way people keep in touch with friends family. If someone in my family here wants to have a conversation with someone – even if its overseas – they will call them up. Or SMS them at most. With the exception of the youngest generation here, the majority of my family here haven’t heard of MSN Messenger, AIM, Facebook, or Skype. “The computer is your one and only friend” one of my older cousins keeps saying to me quite frequently. She herself isn’t computer literate and doesn’t own or use a computer. For someone like her, I can see how what I’m doing is very anti-social. In reality, however, my computer is the lifeline to keep me in touch with my friends and family – and helps me fight off being homesick.

It’s very easy to lose perspective here. Which is why I am so glad that there are kind people out there – strangers that I’ve never met – willing to give me words of encouragement. If you never bothered to write, comment, rate, or somehow show your support – I’d have never known you exist. But you guys have – and for that, I have only one thing to say.

Thank you.

2 Responses to “They Just Don’t Get It: Doing Online Work in an Offline World”

  1. 1 Rhyan

    Get off the computer 😛

  2. 2 Rhyan

    Get off the computer 😛

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