God Bless The Internet

by Cia

In February 2012, at the tender age of nine, I created my first ever blog. I'd made it with the intention of diminishing boredom from mine and my classmates' lives forever - I posted lists of fun activities to do whenever one's heart desired, such as pretending to be a fly for a day, or 'surfing the net'. From the moment I clicked the Publish button on my first post, I began dreaming of life as a rich and famous blogger one day - I'd be like Jacqueline Wilson or JK Rowling, but with a laptop instead of a stack of bestselling novels. I imagined having hundreds (hundreds!) of dedicated readers who clung onto every single one of my words and left pages and pages of comments for me to read, beaming back at my computer screen... Unfortunately, my incredibly basic Wordpress blog never shot me to stardom the way I'd hoped for it to. Instead, I ended up commenting 'is no one looking??' on my first post within three days of it going up. (I was right to doubt myself. No one was looking.)
My relationship with the World Wide Web has definitely progressed (somewhat) since the dark days of 2012. If you know me in real life in any way at all, you'll know that I call myself fiercely pro-Internet: I like to think of it as a glorious, free-for-all utopia in which everything is accessible to everyone. After all, without the Internet, I doubt I would've ever properly discovered poetry, or that I'd be writing at all. Obviously, I'm not the only person out there who can thank the Internet for helping them discover what they're passionate about. I think that I can safely say that Generation Z (encompassing people born between the mid 1990s and the mid 2000s) is the generation of the Internet: I've never really known a world in which the Internet isn't a major factor in one's lifestyle - whenever I find myself somewhere without my phone, the absence of my beloved apps makes me feel lost (especially in the case of the absence of Google Maps).
I've only recently come to notice the peculiar sense of ownership that I - and many other members of my generation - feel in relationship to the Internet. The Internet is very much owned by us (or at least that's how the big brands want us to feel, says the anarchist in me). Isn't it beautiful that anyone with a computer or smartphone can make a huge difference by themselves?  Even on a more basic, less sociopolitical level, I think that platforms such as Twitter and Instagram can be incredibly useful in terms of self-expression, especially if you’re young and you’re still trying to figure out what the word ‘identity’ really means to you. Would Malala Yousafzai have been able to make such huge strides in her campaign for girls' education if she had never blogged for BBC Urdu back in 2009? What about the way that social media has influenced movements such as #BlackLivesMatter?
These, reader, are the questions that I ought to be pondering when I spend hours getting lost in the Instagram Explore page. It is at times like these that I begin to wonder whether we own the Internet, or whether the Internet really owns us. Frankly, I’m ashamed of the amount of time I spend staring at a screen everyday - did you know that there’s an app you can use to track the amount of time you spend on your phone, down to minutes and seconds? I don’t want this essay to turn into a ‘Put-Down-Your-Phone-And-Step-Out-Into-Nature-Experience-The-Real-World-For-Once’ lecture. Personally, I despise that rhetoric very much.

In conclusion: I love the Internet in the same way that one might love their mother, or their child, or their bad-boy, so-wicked-it’s-good significant other. How so, you ask? Well, I suppose that the Internet has watched me grow, and shown me the ropes when it comes to literature, poetry and general societal norms, hence its likeness to a mother; at the same time, I’ve watched it grow and stumble, many, many times, hence its likeness to a child; and I suppose that my almost-addiction to it could be compared to a sort of crappy-teen-film fixation on the bad boy in the class. I know it’s bad, but a part of me tells me that it’s normal and fine. Excuse the terrible metaphor: much like the Internet itself, I’m still figuring out what’s going on.
(The title of this essay comes from a song with the same name, by an Australian duo called the No Frills Twins. I suppose that the fact that I only came across this song because of my Spotify Discover playlist fits into this essay quite nicely.)