By Sahar Majid

At Emily’s home — for dinner

Emily Hauze, a resident of Pennsylvania, is the most active Facebook user I have ever come across One of my colleagues at Dawn, Manzoor Chandio put me in touch with her when he learned that I was going to Philadelphia for my Alfred Friendly Fellowship assignment.

Emily has many friends in Pakistan she made through Facebook. And these are not just virtual friends; she is very much a part of their lives. They even send her gifts from Pakistan.

When I came here, we exchanged messages a few times on Facebook and then decided to meet at her residence in Swarthmore.

Emily loves the colorful traditional clothes and jewelry worn by the rural women of Pakistan. She learned about Pakistani culture by chance when she contacted Nisar Khokhar, a Pakistani journalist, on Facebook. That was in 2010 when floods hit Pakistan and Emily, through Nisar Khokhar’s Facebook page, saw the miseries suffered by Pakistanis, particularly in the Sindh region.

She was touched by the people, their lifestyle, and their colorful dresses. Now she is no less than an unofficial cross-cultural ambassador for the U.S. and Pakistan. Currently she has more than 2,000 friends and more than 1,200 followers on Facebook — mostly from Pakistan, especially from Sindh.

Emily — who is a brilliant photographer — regularly posts photographs of herself wearing traditional Pakistani dresses. Fascinated with Eastern culture in general, she attends Kathak dance classes at Swarthmore College. She decorated her home with beautiful handicrafts and antiques from Pakistan.

Emily with the dance group

She is a huge fan of Bollywood movies.

Her husband Andrew Hauze had cooked a traditional Indian chicken curry with boiled rice and carrot dessert (gaajar ka halwa) for our dinner, while Hindi movie songs played in the background. We enjoyed these yummy delights of the subcontinent and discussed Bollywood movies. It was beautiful. I felt as if I was back in my homeland, not in the U.S.

Emily has been learning to read, write and speak Urdu, Sindhi and Hindhi.

I could have never got to know such a nice friend if social media did not exist. Thanks you Facebook!

Blogging is another form of social media. Everyone can’t have his or her work printed in a newspaper or a website, but in the age of blogging, everyone can get published. Everyone can express an opinion via blogs — or simply by creating a Facebook page or group and by adding likeminded people to it.

I joined Emily’s Facebook page for Kathak dancers. And, now I’m in touch with all those American friends who love South Asian culture!  

Social media has changed the way we communicate. Earlier we only had the options to email or chat via yahoo or msn messenger with people we were in touch with on a regular basis. But with social media, we can reach all over the world.

Social media has brought many concerns as well. The main problem is ‘privacy.’ While it is fun to post personal photos and write about everything that’s going on in our lives, it is also necessary to keep a strict check on our ‘privacy settings.’ We don’t want everyone to have access to our personal information.

In itself social media is not good or bad. It’s just how people use it that can make it into something harmful.