Can one survive in a different country on social media alone? The answer would be "yes", albeit with some difficulty according to Martin Pasquier, who spent a week in Singapore with just a smartphone, 10 items in his backpack and no cash.
The 28-year-old Frenchman was in Singapore in February on the social experiment, "Can man live on social media alone?" as part of Social Media Week, wherein he linked up with locals via Facebook and Twitter in order to get help with accommodation, food and transport. Singaporean Daphne Chui participated in the same experiment, depending on Londoners to help her get around England's capital city.
Even though Pasquier confessed that the experiment was very successful due to the warmth and generosity of Singaporeans, he was was cautious on whether another person in a real-life situation could easily get by in a foreign land with just the help of social media. After all, the Frenchman did have a one week head-start in getting help through publicity on Facebook and Twitter.
In fact, the social media director had so many offers from Singaporeans that the most challenging thing for him was choosing among the various options offered to him on the Facebook page that he created for the social experiment a week before arriving in the Lion City.
"If I took into account everyone who posted an offer, I think I could stay for almost four months," said the 28-year-old from Paris.
"I think without the pre-experiment publicity, such a thing would be possible, but you would need a lot more time on the smart phone in order to connect to people to find Yahoo! or Facebook groups of people in the city. The frame of the experiment made things easier for sure, and it can be replicated, but will need much more time," he said.
"After all, I think lots of people like backpackers or Couchsurfers use social media quite often to seek help in foreign lands," he added.
Warm, generous Singaporeans
He admitted, though, that the experiment worked well for him because Singaporeans were really warm and generous, often going out of their way to help him.
"A few people helped me along the streets, like directing me to the nearest MRT station. Not only did they show me directions, they even took me to the place itself. Such an experiment in Paris, for example, would not have ran as well because we do not have the reputation of being very generous and open to strangers and foreigners," he told Yahoo! Singapore.
Pasquier's time in Singapore was a busy one, due to his need to balance the daily tasks given to him as part of the experiment, and setting time aside for locals who wanted to meet up with him.
He pointed out that that one of his most memorable experiences in Singapore was getting involved in the Soup Kitchen Project for needy people. The task was to cook for 100 people in a team of 15 people in two hours.
"It was very interesting because in distributing the food in the poorer HDB areas, I was able to see the common lives between the different ethnic communities that lived on the same floor," he said, referring to the ethnic diversity and inter-ethnic interactions that happen in HDB blocks.
The social media director, who lives in Paris, ensures that his life is not too immersed into social media. In fact, he said that he mostly tweets professionally, and not so often about his personal life.
"I also fixed some rules for myself, which is not to connect to any screen or electronic device after 10pm. So I don't answer my phone, I won't check my email, and won't turn on my computer as well," said Pasquier.
"If not, I could spend my whole life on the screen and there are other things to do in life like reading books and meeting people," he pointed out.
Pasquier also admitted that he does not use social media a lot on his travels due to high data roaming costs. The few times that he has used it were to connect to maps or to stay connected with his loved ones back home.
"Even if I had free data roaming everywhere, I would be cautious not to use too much social media. We can still walk into pubs, for example, to talk to people -- we didn't need smart phones in the past to do that. It's also a more 'human' way of interacting," he said.