I was born with the internet. But it was growing in another parallel universe. Somehow I was not very aware of the internet until I was about 14 years old… In my childhood, my parents stressed the importance of reading books—the house was filled with books. I remember scanning the shelves and seeing fat books with titles that I could not understand. I couldn’t wait until I would be old enough to read them. Books are the primary source of my cultural knowledge. You could claim that most books are not all that up-to-date—I agree. But books provide a profound look into the cultures of the past and reveal so much about their authors…
In those same years, I also watched a lot of movies. My father is a movie junkie, so I had plenty of films to discover. Among other types of movies (international movies, documentaries, comedies, romances, political thrillers), he really enjoys movies about African American culture. Hence, for the most part, I gained my knowledge about Black culture through movies (stereotypes and all).
Let me be honest: I am a quarter African American, but I grew up in a predominantly White and Mexican community. I could have easily known very little about Black culture until after I graduated from high school.
Similarly to books, I deeply appreciate movies for the perspective they give into the past, as well as the moviemaker’s willingness to reveal parts of his or her own imagination.
I’m tire of reading, I want to Facebook
In my first year of high school, there was a big hype about Facebook. I remember being curious about it. There were also various peer pressures to get an account. I remember my parents being very skeptical about Facebook, especially in terms of privacy. They also simply did not want my siblings and I to be distracted by that “useless” kind of stuff. “Go paint, go read a book, go play outside! Listen to music, practice some piano!” But like a teenager, I got an account anyway. And I still can’t decide if it is to my fortune or misfortune: Facebook was really easy to learn how to use. Almost instantaneously, I was hooked.
I liked Facebook in the beginning, because I was provided with a platform to share, with others, my life. More importantly, I could choose what I wanted to share. I could post pictures for the visual information. I could post stories or random phrases to give people an insight into my mind. It is all so similar to the joys of writing a book or making a movie.
Dirty Hidden Secrets
After a couple of years, however, I began to realize the other implications of having a Facebook account. It gives you excuses not to go up to some one and talk face to face. It makes it easy to ignore people who are trying to talk to you. It also allows you to discover personal facts about people that you have never met before, or even seen (which is creepy). Lastly, you end up worrying about your self-image much more than you need to—friends’ comments on your posts begin to mean the world. Here’s an independent short film that cleverly sums up these habits that we all know too well.
The Day I Became Artsy
Later in high school, I began to venture into creative writing and poetry. I also took several years of digital photography courses. I never shared any of my artistic pieces with Facebook (although, I did share my art personally with many people), because I didn’t want anyone to steal my words or images. I tried to teach myself that ventures are for the discovery of the self; online comments don’t matter.
In senior year, I lived abroad for a couple of months and I shut down my Facebook account, annoyed by all the unnecessary information. My feelings at the time: Laurence Fishburne in Spike Lee’s School Daze.
I wanted to teach myself to live without constantly updating my knowledge of others. I should be constantly updating my knowledge of myself.
The Main Question
I think that the main question for me is: How do you create something (share a part of yourself) without reflecting that part on the information and the people around you?
After contemplating for a couple of years, I am now in college and a pretty frequent user of Facebook. I also often visit YouTube to listen to music. I’ve begun to understand the line between me and everyone else in the digital world. And little by little, I am genuinely creating art without feeling the need to hear feedback. I think that if I can use Facebook as a tool, and not a distraction, I will be able to dig deep into myself and share my life through books and movies (or whatever medium I bump into next). And in the same time, I can keep up with my extensive world of friends.
I did grow up in the digital world. In that sense, I am a digital native. By no means am I as fluent as my peers when it comes to online tools (this is my first blog post, I’ve never used a hashtag, I’ve never “tweeted,” and Tumblr makes me very bored), but I am well on my way to learning my comfort zones.