Prague is a ghost town. Or at least that’s how it feels like to me. Sure, there are people everywhere, but none of them are actually present in the moment. People pass each other without ever noticing those who are around them.”Of course, people ignore each other everywhere in the world, but here it is different: there is an air of not being involved, not being present.” So much negativity and pessimism is projected from the walls that most Czechs build around themselves. I come from Jordan, a country where being welcoming and being friendly to every stranger that comes your way is a norm. This is why I felt the need to understand this national phenomena and the reason behind its existence.
Finally, after reading many articles and talking to some Czech citizens, I was able to understand the context of the situation. I learned that Czech Republic is a country that suffered a lot in the past. Occupation after occupation, Czechs have gone through an inconsiderable amount of pain and suffering. During the Communism era, which dominated the land from 1945 until 1989, people were suffocating under big brother’s thumb. Czechs feared for their lives; they did not know who they can and cannot trust. And until this day, Czechs seem to have major trust issues. Actually, ” Sixty four percent of respondents to a Stem survey in 2008 said they didn’t trust their fellow citizens.”
I empathize with Czechs. And although I believe that their reactions are understandable, they are still unfortunate and have adverse impacts on them. They are not only pushing themselves further away from each other, but from the rest of the world as well. Human beings are social creatures. They cannot survive as independent individuals. This is why I wonder, for how long will they live as strangers in their own homeland? For how long will they remain distant and afraid of each other? Do they want to continue living in isolation from each other and the rest of the world?
While reading an article on BusinessCulture.Org titled Social media guide for Czech Republic it hit me, I found the answer. Now I am no expert, but just hear me out. According to the article, the number of Czechs using different social media platforms has been increasing tremendously the past couple of years. “The number of registered Facebook users is 3,805,480, as of the 1st of November 2012, which is an increase of 194,480 in the last six months.” As for Linkedin “the number of registered users in the Czech Republic is around 213,600.” Twitter is not as popular but the article indicates that the number of users has been increasing.
Social Media is a form of communication. Czechs’ use of it can only mean one thing; they want to communicate with other people. Regardless whether they want to get in contact with people from the Czech Republic or somewhere else, they are still communicating. On some level, they do not want to be isolated. Even though their walls are built high in the real world, they are torn down online. Whether they want to make friends or maintain contact with friends and/or family on Facebook, find jobs and impress employers on Linkedin, or voice out their thoughts and opinions on Twitter, they are still reaching out. They are building interpersonal relationships that may vary in strength (Bonding or Breaching).
Their increase use of social media platforms could also show that their trust is being restored in the people surrounding them. I would say that because some users online are not who they say they are. I would like to think that they are taking a leap of faith by using these platforms. Yes, they might be more aware of their actions online since they have an audience that they are communicating with. However, they do not control these actions since the norms and values which exist in the physical space of Prague are not recognizable online (Social context collapsed). So they are not obliged to be cold and distant online.
Personally, I never thought I would talk and act the way I do now before I started using the social media platforms that I use. A friend would see a post that I made online, and would come talk to me about it the next day. Being able to express myself freely online helped me become more open with the people around me. Czechs may not be as friendly and open in the physical world as they are beginning to be online. But at least they are bringing their walls down even if its online. Step by step, brick by brick, they’ll get there.
Featured Image: Prague Castle By Dina M. Saleh