By Karima Khan Aug. 23, 2018
As our phones changed from landlines to mobiles, the internet sped up with us 1 kbps at a time. So the next time someone asks you where you’re from, slap your chest and proudly say that you were raised on the borderless, limitless empire of the internet.
At our age, as we await impending quarter-life crises and wrestle with nasty imposter syndromes, if we must celebrate a birthday, it should be this: 27 years ago, engineer, computer scientist, and internet’s Daddy Tim Berners-Lee opened up the World Wide Web for everyone who had access to a computer. He didn’t know it at the time, but he ended up forever changing the world.
In fact, we were the first generation to have grown up with the little dude called the internet.
As our phones changed from landlines to mobiles and our hormones from dormant to hyperactive, the internet sped up with us 1 kbps at a time. So the next time someone asks you where you’re from, slap your chest and proudly say that you were born, and raised on the borderless, limitless empire of the internet. Because this vast land of 1s and 0s has shaped our generation into the people that we are.
Isn’t it mindblowing how this virtual entity has literally shrunk the world?
I’ve had the internet by my side since I was 10 years old. Even after spending a glorious 16 years with it, it still constantly amazes me: On one hand, people across the world have gathered for protests because of one post and on the other they’ve also come together to inexplicably yell “Bol Na Aunty Aaun Kya”.
Before the internet, I used to think of myself as an introvert. At that time, I was the only teenager I knew who watched anime and emotionally ate her way through life. The magazines I would buy always had perfect regular girls on them – who were rich daughters to famous parents and had their rooms featured in said magazines. I, on the other hand, slept on the divan in the living room: an obese person who only enjoyed reading books and watching the Disney channel. And I couldn’t help but feel slightly disconnected from the real world where everyone seemed to have it better.
I’m happy not being a part of the “aur bataiye” generation. If that means I look for connection and advice on the internet and in my smartphone, so be it.
It was on the internet that I realised that the world is mostly middle-class, that the people in the magazines aren’t really real, and that I wasn’t alone. That too many people sleep in the living room, go on food-binges like me, and are hardcore anime fans. I’ve related to more people who’ve had to spend two months away at Nani’s house than those who went for family summer vacation to Europe. And I wouldn’t have known them had it not been for the interwebz.
One of the most common arguments I hear thrown around by my parents’ generation, is that the internet has turned us millennials into bums. The “hamare zamaane mein toh” line of attack on us digital natives. We’re told that our smartphone lifestyle has made us completely self-involved, given us an inflated sense of self, and made us believe that each of us is unique, a snowflake.
I’d say it’s the exact opposite. Instead of making me think that I’m unique or isolated and that my troubles are mine alone, the internet has provided me a sense of community. I have deeper, more soulful chats with my besties at 2 am than what passes off as a conversation between older folks in the neighbourhood.
“Ghar pe sab theek?”
“Haan ji sab theek! Aur aapke ghar pe?”
“Sab theek. Aur bataiye?”
I’m happy not being a part of the “aur bataiye” generation. If that means I look for connection and advice on the internet and in my smartphone, so be it. I’d rather be forming relationships with strangers I have never met versus people I continue to meet and who still remain strangers.
My first boyfriend Matt, was English. He was 18 and I was 13. Over the period of our courtship, we chatted twice on MSN messenger and sent two emails to each other. He’d sent me a photo of a gorilla and I replied with a portrait of Hilary Duff. I was convinced it was true love. And I didn’t know what he looked like. But that’s ok. I got more out of that relationship than I do out of my extended family.
A report in Business Insider labelled the internet “the best set of parents a millennial could ask for”. “The one thing millennials have mastered is the internet… In a weird way, asking thousands of anonymous strangers for help is more of an adult thing to do than asking your parents, because asking your parents feels like a regression in maturity… Here the internet serves as a handy way to learn a life skill without admitting to the universe that you still feel like a child.”
So yes, the internet has been there for me when many others haven’t: Whether I’ve wanted to ask questions about the Treaty of Versailles or the Illuminati or how to tell my crush that I liked him. The internet has proved to be a much better educator of moral science, sex education (that the Indian education system misses by a wide margin) and even home science lessons (I learned how to cook because of the internet).
Now, my job is on the internet. It has just delivered my words to your eyes. I feel like we’re friends and we haven’t even met yet.
It’s some kind of magic, the internet.
Karima is a writer and a standup comedian from Mumbai. Her blood tests have revealed that she's mostly made of shawarma. She enjoys back scratches and writing in third person because that's how you feel #official. Hit the girl up on Twitter @karimasanela.