What: Social Media: Changing Lives, at Brisbane Writers Festival
Organised by: TAFE Qld English Language and Literacy Services (TELLS
Where: State Library of Queensland
When: 8 September 2012
Review by: Amilia Cunningham, Brisbane Ambassador

There’s been a lot of negative press recently about social media. So, when I read the description for the event ‘Social Media: Changing Lives’ at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, I was expecting nice stories.  What I didn’t expect was the laughs, or the tears, the highs and lows, that the audience experienced in one simple hour. These stories of connecting with family overseas, conversing with husbands an ocean away, supporting each other in crisis and connecting a culture of people around the world were told by four young women, recent immigrants to Brisbane.  Two of their stories are below.

How does one sustain a relationship and marriage when you live in a different country to your husband?  Skype was a lifeline for Mukarrama from Bangladesh, who met her husband through a client, and after getting married, he moved to Australia for work, but she wasn’t able to follow him for almost 12 months. ‘We shared our stories, emotions, joys and sorrows.  It allowed me to have the emotional touch I needed’, she told the audience.

Another speaker, Margaretha, worked in mining in Indonesia.  Her story was raw, deeply sad and it was difficult for her to contain her grief.  There was only one helicopter that the mining company owned. In August 2011, it went missing and it became apparent in the days after, that it had crashed.  All 10 on board had died.  Through social media, their community was able to pull together and support each other and the families of the men who died.  She still keeps in touch with some of the wives now that she is in Australia.

As I consider moving overseas to work sometime in the near future, something that Mukarrama said touched me personally.  Now that she’s moved to Australia, she uses Skype to talk with her mother in Bangladesh.  She said ‘I never felt, before I moved to Australia, that I bore such a love in my heart for my mother’. And I know this will be me, in months or years to come, relying on social media to stay connected to those closest to me. And how thankful I am, that Skype and Facebook will enable that connection.

What did you miss? Heartfelt stories of connection, love, and supporting others through grief, and the positive power of social media.