Thursday, November 12, 2015

Raised Online

I'm pretty tired of hearing about 'Millennials' and how this ~facinating~ generation is \insert_generic_critique\. There are so many opinions out there about me, about my peers, while not even really listening to what we are saying.

I recently heard an interview on PRI in my car. (A tool I have mixed feelings about owning, while articles like this try and explain my feelings to me) Anyways, this interviewer had two doctor types people on the show. One of them was convinced that the increased use of screen and technology hampers development in young children and is in the process to maiming me and my friends. The other doctor type, of course another guy, was challenging the first's studies by trying to separate causality from correlation. The specifics of this story don't really matter. Every few months, a new study comes out claiming to understand some important component of how progress is taking place, either for good or bad. Who is this decided by though?

'When science is reduced to the think-piece, there is clearly something wrong with this generation'

'When science can be translated into accessible language, this generation is showing itself to be the best informed generation yet'

Rarely do the articles written about the studies explain the nuance and limitation of these studies, something so common online that its easy to forget nuance exists. Everything is a sign of some grand narrative of generational turnover and tension. This is some bullshit. Trying to figure out one trend that generations are going through only holds up to scrutiny if you believe that humans are defined by their generation. In a world interconnected by instant communication and globalization, the nuances of culture, ability, family, education, location, etc define how people engage with each other. There is no truth out there that will allow someone to understand what it is like to be raised online. Just as there is no one upbringing AFK, there is no one upbringing plugged in.

I don't remember using a computer for the first time. I remember learning how to type on a keyboard when I was 6. We wrote stories into these keyboards with a glorified calculator screen and an usb plug. You had to scroll through your work a few lines at a time, and every time a new text entry was started, it cleared the memory. Thinking back, this was one of my first experiences with creative writing. I got my own computer at age 8 or 9. I only remember this because I discovered porn and /accidentally/ masturbation at 9 in my room. I discovered torrenting and the anarchist's cookbook around this time too. I was never very social online, rarely participating in forums or chatrooms. Opting for reading content instead. Nevertheless, I was raised online. Not so much in my early years, not as much as my younger brother, born when I was 6, but I can't remember a time when I didn't have access to a computer.

As an aside, I know that I am incredibly lucky that this was my experience, I never experienced poverty until I moved across the country to college, and even now, if I needed to I could ask my parents, older brother, uncles, aunts, and grandparents for some money. I am very grateful for this fact, but to say that my life is spectacular for somebody born into comfortable whiteness would be inaccurate.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that I don't see tech as something foreign. I don't like the term IRL 'in real life' because it equates online-ness with falseness. My computer is essential to me as a person. Essential to how I engage with the world. Most of the people I know, myself included, have had existential crises about just this fact, have deleted social media accounts, have realized their desires and have rejoined the rest of us online. This anxiety about authenticity - a buzzword without much meaning - and realness runs deep in us raised online. It was instilled into us by teachers, parents, and even by peers. Our cultural inertia devalued the experience we had as some of the first people to be raised online.

As our parents and elders watched us grow up online, they tried to figure it out. They still are trying to figure it out. Why do you think that studies to 'figure out millennials' still get funding? Its not like science isn't a political endeavor. Ask any grant writer, getting funding is no easy task. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no truth out there.

Why do you think the x-files has such a massive following? We long for the days when evil was a group of men in a smokey room. We long for the days when the Truth was Out There. We long for the days when all one needed was a room full of files, a charming smile, and the will to find the truth. We long because we have absorbed nostalgia for days we never even knew.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no way to understand a generation from the outside, I think, until that generation has started to fade. But, even as we all know this, still ache for the Truth out there to be confirmed to denied by the next study.

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