As I’m spending time with my 10-year-old cousin, I notice he has his headphones in, giggling to himself while frantically pressing on his laptop’s keyboard. As I’m peering over his shoulder, he proceeds to have, what sounds like, a conversation with someone on the other side of his headset.
“Who are you talking to?” I ask.
“My friend BroX552 from Germany,” he tells me.
It’s incredible, I thought, how the advents of social media, smart technology, and the modern Internet have made us feel that much closer to each other. In this day and age, the term “pen pal” has all but disappeared into an archaic term, one only a Nora Ephron movie would reference. Instead, we’re learning how to foster virtual relationships, as fleeting as they may be, from an early age.
Our generation is experiencing a level of globalization like never before; I text my friends in Europe as much as I do the ones next door, giving me a broader scope of the world around me.
With access to locals from different countries, we all have the illusion that our closeness online directly translates to our daily realities and opportunities. However, even though the Internet gives us the appearance of profound connectivity, our government initiatives are doing exactly the opposite and actually pulling us apart.
A 10-hour flight doesn’t seem so far, a like on a friend’s Facebook status from around the world takes only a second, and global media content is available and instantaneous. With all this connectivity, we let our minds wonder. What if we worked in Berlin for a little bit, or moved to London next year? When our parents were young adults, the thought of starting fresh in a new country wasn’t the norm, but it was definitely doable. However, for us, our governmental regimes are making the very notion of mobility more difficult. Especially with our political climate and current waves of anti-immigration sentiments, our worldwide possibilities are shrinking, even though it may not appear that way on our screens.
Our society’s current juxtaposition, ironically, contrasts our technological feats with our governments’ regressive attitudes, further preventing us from experiencing different nations in person. If Brexit and our current US administration can teach us anything, it’s that our appetite for mobility is being stunted by new, stricter regulations.
When analyzing our current immigration trends, it’s important to look at the two main hurdles facing migrants today. Along with general negative sentiments sweeping America and Europe, we’ve steadily seen increased immigration wait times and a growing number of worldwide applicants never seeing their turn at the border. The opposing movements lie in the fact that as more people seek refuge in the west, more powerful officials are blocking the very notion.
One must then wonder if the growing demand for immigration in recent years could be connected to the widespread media alerting people as to what could be waiting in a different country? Perhaps in recent years, we’ve received more courage to move to new places because we have been exposed to a new level of simulated togetherness.
While we’re used to seeing the American in Paris or the immigrant finding a job in New York in movies, our bureaucratic backlog has reached new heights, and unfortunately, the freedom of mobility has slowed down.
Green card wait and processing times have increased exponentially for one, and we have more people applying for the green card lottery than ever before. In fact, we went from 7 million to a whopping 19 million applicants in only the last decade. For residents of some countries, like India, getting your green card could take over 12 years. We’ve also seen an increase in professionals hoping to obtain a work visa. In 2008, about 150,000 people applied for Trump’s least favorite visa (the H-1B professional workers’ visa) while over 230,000 hopefuls tried their luck in 2017.
Additionally, our current President and his administration have clearly expressed their distaste for immigration. Other than introducing dangerous travel bans, trying to eliminate the green card lottery, and adding hurdles for professional working visa holders to transition into permanent residency, the administration is putting us at risk of losing our worldwide opportunities and turning us into a permanent immobile community. As nativist views sweep our nation, one must think of the widespread affect xenophobia is having across the pond.
A glaring anomaly introduced in 2016, Brexit is now the poster child for all the uncertainty plaguing Europe in the years to come. Britain’s exit from the European union is exploring the future of employment and residential opportunities that will have the greatest impact on younger generations. After speaking to several friends of mine residing in the UK, I found that the general consensus is uncertainty. For my friends with European passports who have worked in London for several years and for those with foreign passports concluding their studies in the UK, where does Brexit leave them? Although some announcements were made of what policies will be in place, those in the United Kingdom are unsure of what strict regulations are to come. With the freedom to work beyond borders now vanishing before their eyes, the British may be the first of many populations to experience closed off opportunities.
Right now, we’re faced with divergent trains of thought; how can we aim to become global citizens with shrinking borders?
More than ever, wanderlust-ers like myself hope to experience new cultures, live in different communities, and have the freedom of options, but with various governments countering that initiative, we’ve rested at a standstill.
One of the most important things social media has gifted us is the the ability to exchange ideas at super speed, hopefully encouraging more political movements to materialize at a faster rate. Though we have evolved from using carrier pigeons to communicate, we do have quite a ways to go if we’re hoping to insight change in our political process. Since we have the ability to transmit messages to anywhere, anytime, and in seconds, it’s our responsibility to relate our ideas and plans across any and all constricting borders.
Sonia Gumuchian is a writer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Vancouver, she received her film degree from USC School of Cinematic Arts and has been working in the TV industry for several years. Sonia recently worked at ABC Studios and HBO, where she learned the ropes of creative development. Additionally, her work has been showcased at film festivals in the UK, the US, and Canada. Her entertainment articles have also been featured in USC Annenberg Media and Neon Tommy.