How The Internet Changed My Life (Part 1)
The internet is no doubt one of the greatest invention in history, an invention so large and big in its scope that no one can be left unscathed from its effect. From the way I look at it internet is the new TV. The internet is quickly and surely coming to each and every household in the developing and developed world.
To understand the magnitude of the change internet has brought to my life I feel it is necessary for me to give you a bit of a glimpse to my personal life prior to the internet. I was probably in my early teens when my parents decided their children were wise enough to dwell into unknown territory as long as that dwelling was in the vicinity of their own house, after all what is the worse that could happen right? The internet is just a harmless toy that happens to be in fashion right now, or so they thought. They never thought a day will come when their children have been found to commit the sin of spending more time on the internet and pondered to replace their parents with it.
They used to tell me, "why you want to put internet? Eventually you will get bored of it like you do with many of your old toys and you will never use it and we both will have to pay for the monthly bills." Boy were they wrong, but it is not like we knew any better.
When I was growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia we had only 1 state owned tv channel called TVRI, we had no choice but that, the concept of having a choice never even occurred to us. It was either that or playing with my siblings until we end up fighting and get scoldings from our parents.
Eventually, however, somewhere in the early 90s private owned television stations started coming. The first private station came in early 90s and now we had two choices. It wasn't till another five or 6 years or so before more television stations came along.
Even then, life was pretty simple, as far as information and entertainment was concerned it was very limited. Our only source of comprehensive news about the whole world was from the daily newspaper. As far as entertainment is concerned we have to be very creative, there was not much to see on the tv, as a child we were hardly effected by the media, since there was hardly any media to begin with. I feel fortunate to have lived in a time when our minds were simple and we were not bombarded by the media.
If you live in a big city now, it is impossible to not be bombarded by the media, 24 hour news channels, your smartphones. We get information overload and tend to loose touch with reality. I miss those days when we couldn't google anything we don't know about and the world was a mystery and we have to do a bit of exploring to get to know something, instead of just accessing Google and pressing a few buttons. It was beautiful.
This is what would happened before our parents intervened
I remember when the first time we installed the internet we used a 28.8 kbps dial up modem and everytime we connected it to the computer it would make a sound like a robot high on speed. Anyone who used the phone when we were online was our biggest enemy. Period.
I would fight with my elder sister over who could use the computer and access the internet. We had only one computer. It didn't take long for our parents to intervene and, playing referee, decided to make a time table for my sister and I to play the internet. Yes we used the word "play" because we used to consider it as a toy.
Needless to say, when the internet first came to our house we were highly addicted to it straight a way from the beginning. The one big reason why we practically begged our parents to install the internet was none other because we wanted to access mIRC. Do you remember that? We could choose different channels and speak with the members there or we could have a private chat with them and the first thing we would ask them was "a/s/l?" which stood for age/sex/location.
Back then, mIRC was all the hype, everyone of our classmates were always rambling about it, it was the thing in our school. We used to see them make an appointment to meet later at night on mIRC and chat away, they would tell one another their nicknames. one person would be sweetypie83 and the other would be something like iceboy. Sweetypie83 and iceboy were getting it on every night on mIRC and we were dying to get in on the fun too!
I remember I was 13 at that time and chatting with someone of opposite sex was very appealing, many times I would tell them that my age was 27, because it didn't take me long to find out that these women weren't interested in chatting with a 13 year old. On the internet I could be anything I damn well please if I was convincing enough, and as a 13 year old, the one thing we want is to get in on the fun of being an adult. I don't mean to boast when I say that I made a fairly convincing 27 year old. One girl even sent me an email expressing her sadness and anguish when I told her I was 13 and she admitted she had a crush on me. I hope all is well with her now.
When I first started using mIRC it used to be a way of chatting away with my classmates after school. It was a lot of fun. It didn't take me long to explore the infinite amount of channels, that I would go there and chat with people I wouldn't know. In real life, I would never even think of approaching a stranger and start a chat with them, but on the internet it was different, I had no fear of sharing what was on my "27 year old" mind.
On a more serious note, what chatting did for me was to open up my mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Before the internet and the mIRC, I have never chatted with anyone else besides my family and friends, but now I am chatting with people from different countries with totally different background and way of life. It was an exciting time for me. It was like the world shrunk to the size of my neighborhood.
I remember during the 1998 South East Asian monetary crisis, Jakarta was in shambles and there were riots everywhere in the city, cars and tires were being burned on the streets. I was too young to understand what the riot was all about but one thing for sure was it changed my views on the city forever. Chatting on the mIRC with my friends allowed me to exchange ideas with them and learn and sincerely ask them what on earth is going on, with them replying to me like I was an adult.
A few of my friends from different countries even started reaching out to me asking me how my family and I were doing. The thought of having people out there that actually cared and actually asked ME, 13 year old me, how it was, was quite the experience for me because till then, no one bothered asking the point of view of a 13 year old about fighting and riots on the streets that resulted in the country's president's resignation and freed the nation from his iron grip. I always felt that no one was watching Indonesia, it was just Indonesia watching everyone. This experience changed my point of view forever. From then on nothing was the same ever again.
It was also great to be able to share ideas and point of views with other fellow Indonesians about the situation and how is it in their neighborhood. Find out if there was any riots and are they safe and sound.
So now can you imagine how it was for me to see my world shift from one with a single tv channel and my siblings and close friends to play with to all of a sudden having access to the whole world at my own fingertips while an ethnic war was raging in my own backyard? The shift was mind boggling to say the least. But it did not stop there.
I remember when Friendster became all the hype on the internet world. Needless to say, the beginning of Friendster for me was the beginning of social networking, We had new ways to connect with our friends and make friends with people based on our interests. It allowed me to express myself in a way that I couldn't dream of expressing in mIRC chat rooms, for one mIRC did not have profile pictures, if you want to see what a person looked like you had to ask him/her for a picture, and if he/she wants to he/she will give you.
With friendster everything was there, your interests, your photos, the testimonials you got from your friends. This made it much easier for us to meet people who had similar interests to ours and connect and keep in touch with them.
"Beware of fishing for compliments, you might come up with a boot!"
One feature in Friendster that was very popular with my family and friends back in its heyday was its testimonial feature. My god did it make people act cheap and desperate. If there was one thing Friendster showed me about the society I was living in, is that it clearly showed me how desperate some people are for love and attention. How did friendster show me people's desperation for love and attention? Well, I don't know about you but in my case many people would come to me and mindlessly ask "can you please write a nice testimonial in my Friendster page?"
I would never ask a person to do this for me, if you want to write a testimonial or a compliment for me go ahead but asking someone for a compliment is way beneath me. Social networking has made a bunch of people I know become overly narcissistic. It soon became pretty clear to me that, like everything in this world, social networking is a two way sword. I did not like one bit how narcissistic people became, but, on the other hand, I was in awe at how much it helped us to meet people of the same mind and views as ours and easily connect with them on a whole new level like never before.
Before Friendster and social networking, the only person who I knew who loved reading novels was my elder sister, with Friendster I found a whole bunch of people from around the whole world, who would share their interest in books and what books they have read, etc.
One of the reasons why I put Friendster here was because it was the first place where I blogged for the first time. My interest in blogging started there. Unfortunately, they removed their blogging feature and with it all of my blog entries. It was sad, but then again, Thomas Edison's factory burned to the ground and he said "thank god! now we can start a new!" So with the same mentality I moved on in life, and in cyberspace.
It was not long after they removed their blogging feature that Friendster started gradually becoming less popular, and then Facebook came along and I don't think I need to write down about how that went...oh wait, I do need to write about that!
So a little thing called Facebook started creeping into our lives one day, and the next day we made a decision that we could not live without this thing. Facebook to me, was like all of the best thing I have found on the internet all rolled into one sweet blue and white package. We could chat, we could send pictures, we could do so many things, the sky is the limit, and I say IS because even as of this moment of writing, Facebook still has unlimited potential.
One thing about Facebook that really grew on me was its versatility, it was more flexible than Friendster. It is the one platform that really understands the human social structure, it is as close as technology have ever gotten to understanding it. It is made for getting people together and it is doing a fantastic job at that.
I love how I can interact with the friends I already have on a more in depth manner, I can know who it is they hang out with, what is their taste in music, what kinds of books they like to read, where do they go on vacations, although this may sound creepy and make it look like I am stalking them. What it did was help me to make a sound decision over who I choose to be friends with.
There are plenty of times when I meet someone in real life but I just never thought we had similar interests and would never think twice about making friends with them, but thanks to Facebook I would be able to figure out what he/she is like from the way he/she expresses him/herself, and find out how wrongly I have judged this person.
Facebook changed the whole world due to its ability to share information, in so many different forms, it could be in the form of a link, a video, a status, a picture. It quickly changed the global political scene, making it more transparent, thanks to the internet's transparency and total freedom of speech which can be expressed in social networking sites like Facebook the world now can see and communicate and share information with each other like never before without the government or any oppressing authority getting in the way.
"I think peace should be done not only among governments but among people. It was impossible before Facebook."-Shimon Peres
Many experts have speculated that it would be impossible for the Arab Spring Movement to occur if it was not because of Facebook and twitter, protesters against these oppressive regimes would interact via facebook and twitter to organize demonstrations and protests to oust the oppressive government and achieve democracy in their respective countries. It is similar to how it is in my country, it is a very powerful tool to bring the people together to have them stand for what is right in this world.
There was a huge flood problem very recently in Jakarta, and my friends and I would update our status with informations on the roads that are jammed and/or flooded through status updates and pictures, we could help each other in our commute to and from work at the click of a button.
Many people also started a donation group for the flood victims through facebook asking for help in the form of food, clothes and shelter, and so many people would support them. Facebook has really improved the way our community is functioning.
To Be Continued
For the sake of not making this hub too long and to make it more readable, I have decided to break it into two parts. If all goes well Part 2 of this hub will be published pretty soon. I will definitely update this hub with the link to Part 2 as soon as it is published. Thank you for taking the time to read this hub. God Bless.