Why it’s easier to move country than switch social media

Social Media

When we talk about social media monopolies, we focus too much on network effects, and not enough on switching costs. It’s time to tear down the walls.

Wired (Gregori Saavedra)

For my grandmother, Valentina Rachman, leaving the USSR was a momentous and difficult choice. Making her way across Europe to a camp in Germany, and thence to a Displaced Persons ship to Canada, meant facing enormous danger – including nearly being burned to death in an antisemitic arson attack in Poland – and then starting over in a new country where she had few contacts and could not speak the language.

But even after she learned English and established herself and her family in Toronto, she continued to pay a price for leaving: she was utterly cut off from her mother, brother, cousins and other family in Leningrad. She didn’t even know if they were alive. It was a decade before her phone rang and my father heard his mother cry out “Mama!” for the first time.

I moved from Toronto to San Francisco to London to Los Angeles. Each time, the move has gotten easier. When I left London five years ago, I shipped over my books, my clothes – even my appliances! (I bought voltage adapters.) I videoconference with my in-laws in London and Wales weekly on Saturdays, and with the Toronto bunch every Sunday. If I change my mind, I can always move back.

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