My Homie, The Interwebz
This is my story, told through search.
One thing is for sure: I would not be where I am today without internet access. Well, I take that back. I would still be in NYC, doing what I love, it just would have been a lot more painful and complicated to get here 🙂
I relate to the internet in two ways: as a media professional and as a woman who is still figuring out her place in the world. As long as I don’t forget about that woman, the web continues to be a place that delights and inspires me, even when it sometimes feels like a giant brothel for big business. Remember when it was more about experimentation, f*cking sh*t up and spending hours working on projects that would bring you zero dollars – more like “Hackers“?
OK, I was never as cool as the kids from “Hackers” but that movie did blow my mind. The day that I figured out I could alter my offline life with steps taken through my online life – that both were indeed informing each other – is the day that I decided most of society’s rules didn’t apply to me. I didn’t need to wait for permission to experience adventure or to be who I wanted to be. I wasn’t afraid (as much) to connect with different people and to be inspired by their choices. I saw myself as someone with power, with choice – all because “search” through a browser provided a blank canvas for possibility.
I’ll also never forget the first thing I searched for online: chat. I was twelve years old, in a library in Southern Cali. My mom wasn’t nearby and I discovered the computers had internet access, via an icon on the desktop. No one had ever told me what the internet was or how to use it. I only knew about “chat” because earlier that year I had seen a friend doing that at her home. I cultivated a friendship with a pen pal from NYC – we would exchange verse battles through chat and snail mail. I somehow had him convinced that I was an MC, and through that experience the seeds of change were planted. The friendship didn’t last, like many bonds formed via chat, but it was still a significant experience in my life. He believed in me, without ever seeing me.
While teaching at a middle school in Harlem earlier this year, I was not surprised when my 7th and 8th grade students told me that one of their favorite things to do online was chat. Tween dialogue, as peppered with profanity and seemingly useless exchanges as it may be, is a sounding board for self expression. Type in your thought, see it manifest. See people react to it. This is where your power lies – in discovering the magic behind your thoughts. Does it still surprise you how much they chat and text? Communication = power. They own their thoughts and the repetition helps them to feel that they are cultivating their own world. They are: the danger is when we think that our words don’t matter.
I wish more teachers would incorporate texting, chat and mixed media into their lesson plan. It’s part of the fabric of how we all communicate. To ignore that about your students, and to not be willing to meet them there and share through those mediums, is to be sorely misguided.