Social networking website Facebook is becoming "the virtual marae" for Maori living overseas and away from their iwi and hapu, Massey University student Acushla Dee O'Carroll says.
The 29-year-old Albany student has been researching the impacts of social networking websites, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, on Maori culture and youth for her thesis Kanohi ki te Kanohi (face-to-face) - a thing of the past?
Ms O'Carroll, of Nga Ruahinerangi, Ngati Ruanui and Te Ati Awa iwi, was inspired to research the topic for her PhD because her hapu, or sub-tribe, in South Taranaki wanted Maori youth not living within tribal boundaries to connect back to the marae.
The hapu Facebook page was met with hesitation but tribal elders began to realise the benefits after it grew in popularity.
Ms O'Carroll surveyed 140 Maori living overseas.
One case study she carried out found Facebook is becoming "the virtual marae for young people" or rangatahi.
"You really feel quite lonely when you're overseas and you need something to cling to," she says.
Many Maori find family connections through last names or mutual friends on Facebook even though they have never met face-to-face, she says.
But older generations are concerned there will be no need for young people to return to the marae if they are taking part online, Ms O'Carroll says.
Stalking and breaching tikanga, or Maori protocol, online without moderation from elders are also issues, she says.
"It's populated by young people and if they're not being guided by our elders, they're kind of just free-range, doing whatever.
"In 20 years time we could virtually be running all our marae things online and so what would the use of our marae be?" she says.
- © Fairfax NZ News