Finding My Way with Words: A journey alongside the Internet

When I was three years old, I used to go to work with my mom until I was old enough to enter pre-K. At my mom’s job, I remember her doing work and printing files from a Dell desktop computer. I recall being so fascinated by my mother sending documents to the dot matrix printer and seeing the characters and charts on screen be spit out of a giant printer. This action that seems mundane today blew my mind as a child.

My first experience with a computer and the rest of my introductions to modern technology came from my mom. (It was not until recent years that my father has decided to utilize computers and the Internet for his automotive business.) Because her company is a contractor for the United States government, she had access to many computer-based resources. It was actually through her job that we as a family came to own a computer. As more new technology poured into her office, my mom’s company started an initiative where employees could purchase old computers at a huge discount. This Dell desktop made my V-Tech Smart Start “computer” look obsolete—the built in cassette player and grainy pixelated images couldn’t capture my attention the way the Internet, much less Microsoft Paint could.

VTECH

I remember how much the sound of dial up would excite me. The weird computer-babble transported me to another world. My favorite website bar-none was http://www.barbie.com/en-us. I loved the online makeovers and endless wardrobe options online-Barbie had. My school also started using computers in the classroom due to various government grants that made purchasing computers in the first place affordable. For a while in elementary school I got to be a helper for the mobile computer lab that carted clunky laptops to classrooms all over the building.

School reinforced the social capital computers and the Internet possess. All students in my third grade class were required to get an email address in order to communicate with the teacher and each other for various assignments. Middle school came around brought a new dimension to the social world of technology. All my friends were on MySpace (except for me because I wasn’t allowed to have one) had AIM instant messaging accounts, and this other site called http://www.stardoll.com/en/ where users created virtual versions of themselves. The website’s tagline was “the world’s largest online fashion and dress up games community for girls.” The creation of these online personas, particularly directed at ‘girls,’ reminds me of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto in that the cyber world is a space of gendered creation, but I digress.

Once I entered high school, I kept up with my AIM account and continued keeping in contact with friends through email. I was, however, banned from using Facebook. My parents weren’t keen on Facebook’s politics and the number of stories of kids kidnapped, sexually assaulted, or bullied as a result of Facebook communications. I did, however, start a Twitter because of a journalism class I took one summer. I also lurked on social media spaces dedicated to art and short stories like Deviant Art and FanFiction. Both these sites served as an escape for me—reading the fandom short stories allowed me to find a space on the Internet that wasn’t as judgmental. I usually accessed these sites from my derpy phone that had limited Internet capabilities.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.30.41 AM

Promptly before college, my parents and I got into a huge argument about my social media presence. In the end, I deleted my accounts as a sort of social media cleanse. This past summer, I recreated by Twitter account because of essential it is to my future aspirations as a journalist. I chose not to bother with a Facebook because its purpose doesn’t suit my needs. Though it is frustrating how people have become reliant on Facebook to keep in contact with each other. A friend request or an occasional like should not (and in my opinion cannot) replace face-to-face interactions, or even phone calls, texts, or emails.  I also think it is is frustrating (and slightly disconcerting) that so many of our online accounts are linked to each other and/or are dependent on the existence of another. For example, before Harvard switched to Philo’s streaming services, students needed a Facebook login to access Tivli.

(From philo.com)

(From philo.com)

Where am I today with technology? As a college student in the United States, it is necessary to have a lap top computer. When the opportunity came for me to replace the PC laptop I’d had since 8th grade, I definitely opted for a MacBook Pro. I didn’t choose it because of tech-specs—I merely chose it because it is the “college computer.” It is the main accessory to the college aesthetic.

I also have a touchscreen smart phone with Internet capabilities. I have added Snap Chat and Instagram to my list of social media memberships. Since getting my smart phone last February, I feel as if I could never go back to a standard phone—all of the features and capabilities of my phone integrate so easily into my life. The various apps allow me to participate more in the social lives of my friends here at Harvard, back home, and even from all over the world.

Computers and technology also have huge implications for my future career. As a journalist, it is imperative that I have a Twitter and constantly monitor its feeds and produce content for it. I also decided to create a website for myself as a way to anchor my identity in the online sphere—most of my social media sites and the articles I have written for other publications are linked. This is also a space for me to test my writing voice out and produce my own original content with no gatekeeper besides myself. I also created a LinkedIn profile for myself as a way to connect professionally with people.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.49.09 AM

I do think it is interesting that there are so many forums that people use to highlight particular aspects of themselves online–dating sites to showcase desirability, LinkedIn for hirability, Facebook for connectability, etc.. I find it fascinating that these disparate profiles are more “public” in certain spheres (“personal life,” work, interactions with friends). I also think it is interesting that some of the goals/personal presentations of one person on each these sites may contradict each other.

My future with technology—for the most part—is unclear. I hope that I can retain some of the barriers I’ve built for myself. Technology is a huge factor on what journalism will look like after I graduate college. How news is created and shared is dependent upon people’s engagement with technology.

Finally, I would like to close my digital autobiography with big questions that have been raised for me as I move through this course. 1) Will technology make a “raceless” society or will it classify individuals in new ways? 2) What are the immediate and long-term implications technology will have on class, gender, sexuality, nationality, and race? How do these identities impact the access one has to technology?

Works Cited:

Screen shot of “V-Tech Smart Start Elite” courtesy of pintrest.com

Screen shot of tweet courtesy of @MiraidaM via Twitter.com

Screen shot of “Philo” courtesy of philo.com

Screen shot of “Finding my Way with Words” courtesy of wordpress.com (owner’s name withheld for anonymity

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Simians, cyborgs, and women: the reinvention of nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.

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One thought on “Finding My Way with Words: A journey alongside the Internet

  1. Pingback: Finding My Way with Words: A Journey Alongside the Internet (part 2) | Race and technology

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