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Is technology the cure for homesickness?

When I arrived in Taiwan in 2002, I came armed with a Nokia 8210. It was a great phone and I loved it.

The T9 dictionary made texting a breeze, it had snap-on colour cases, and the best mobile game ever – Snakes.

Did I mention it was virtually indestructible? These new phones are a joke: you could bounce the 8210 across the floor with no worries.

Then, the prospect of keeping in touch with friends and family back home was much dimmer than it is today. Video chat was still pretty rubbish, and phone-camera technology was in its infancy. Not even half of Australia was online in 2002 and 3G wasn’t introduced until 2005, so we are talking the real Dark Ages here.

My brother and I have always been close, so we weren’t going to let a little distance stop us. We got by with text and email, and sometimes attempted the occasional voice chat. The struggle was real.

The Nokia 7250 was a game changer for us. A full colour screen and the ability to send a receive photos? Amazing! OK, so the pics were only 0.3 of a megapixel (I’m not joking), but a picture, even a crappy one, is worth a thousand words, right?

A line of Nokia 7250s

Still as beautiful as the day they were released.

Flash forward to earlier this year. I was still in Taiwan, and my brother and I both had iPhones. We chatted on FaceTime regularly, and a shared photo album let me see what his kids were up to. We even taught Gangy how to use FaceTime, and she’s 90 years old!

With the communication side of things covered, how else I could combat the pangs of homesickness? I guess I could have found a way to watch Home and Away, but the happenings of Summer Bay have never really been my thing.

For me, the answer lay in podcasts.

In case you haven’t noticed, podcasts – essentially downloadable radio – have become a big deal in the last few years. The tipping point was probably Serial, which became a cultural phenomenon in 2014.

And although acclaimed shows like This American Life and Radiolab have been producing quality content for years, people really started taking notice after Serial.

None of those shows would help me with missing ‘Straya though. For my time abroad, I found two podcasts particularly helpful – Download This Show and Dr Karl’s Science Hour on Triple J.

Aside from the fact that I am interested in science and technology, there is something soothing about being able to hear people speak in an accent you recognise. Whether it was Marc Fennell walking me through a new app, or Dr Karl explaining a rainbow, for just over an hour a week, I was home again.

Technology is often lauded as our savior. Breakthroughs in medicine and science point to a potentially better future, however we should also keep in mind the social and cultural impact technology has on our lives.

Comparing my time abroad in 2002 with 2016, I can say that although we haven’t cured fully homesickness, we are damn close.

Nowadays, I tell people I can live anywhere as long as there is good Internet.

And fan or not, I have to admit it is a great theme song.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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