I want to be honest. I had never really cared about being a human being or loving my fellow human beings much. I wasn’t always into “advocating change through empathy, authenticity and technology” as my twitter bio says. I didn’t care whether we metaphorically cannibalize ourselves by fighting senseless wars or do our utmost best to accelerate global warming. To me it was the same difference, we were moving towards the end anyway, it was just a matter of time.
These days as I tell my story, that my love affair with humanity began in 2011 when I stepped into San Francisco for the first time, because this city allowed me to experience what it means to be surrounded by people who have the audacity to dream and the empathy to love.
But if I were to connect the dots backwards, the idea that humanity could have tremendous potential, was seeded in me way back when I was 15, when I discovered the internet. Unlike many of you right now, I didn’t grow up surrounded by the internet, so I have the gift of remembering the dark analog ages where I am forced to speak to people to express myself.
No, this is not a satire. Not everybody enjoys the physical interaction or a verbal conversation with another human being. Today I seem to function normally in social settings, but it doesn’t mean I am okay with it most of the time. This is why discovering the internet was so important for people like me. There are tons of us out there, who actually prefer to be behind a screen, because it allows us to express a part ourselves that would probably never had been seen in social settings. It doesn’t make us less of a human because we are different.
I remember browsing Yahoo! for the first time in 1996, amazed with the amount of information out there, how you could easily jump from page to page, site to site. I remember learning photoshop from a site where one guy painstakingly taught virtual strangers how to create drop shadows and bevels (there were no layer styles back in those days, kids), all for free. I struggled to understand the concept of sharing for free, because where I was from, money was the center of everything. I remember sending my first email as though it was a piece of magic (still amazes me today) and chatting with a stranger for the first time through IRC.
I was no longer defined by my immediate environment.
My breadth of knowledge was no longer limited by the books I could reasonably obtain or the teachers I have had. I had a tiny window to reach out to people who had the same interests, or more importantly, the same weirdness.
That tiny window, probably sustained my life.
Now in 2013, I coerced some of my friends belonging to the same age group to install Snapchat with me. Being a product designer, I wanted to understand it before instinctively rolling my eyes at it (just being honest). After a few days of a friend sending me pictures of her strolling with her baby — pictures of the moment — I began to understand why. It made me feel connected to her life.
Reading stories on Medium, browsing pictures through photo-sharing apps, scrolling through status updates — makes me feel connected to you which would be hard to imagine without the internet.
But feeling connected is just scraping the surface.
Because of the internet, I get to see some of you doing amazing things, working on ambitious projects, organizing monumental initiatives, exploring vast new ground — things which would be inaccessible to me if I simply lived in my own constrained environment, or if I didn’t have the privileged opportunity to travel.
I am able to see in real-time, that there are actually people out there who care about the world beyond themselves (you have no idea what I was conditioned to believe in), that some of you have the courage to throw aside the pursuit of comfort and security to take the risks on behalf of all of us.
I have witnessed the incredible growth of the open-source community, and how the web has evolved from a bunch of html tables to being able to make you dizzy with all that parallax scrolling — which you really shouldn’t take for granted how difficult it is to achieve some form of web standards without a group of committed individuals.
The internet as it stands today, as you take for granted the gifts of instantaneous publishing, facetiming your grandmother or watching SFBatKid rescue the city, would not be possible without harnessing the combined strength, determination and imagination of humanity.
How will it ever be possible for me to take all of this for granted, to fall out of love with something which not only made me love you, but to make me try to love myself?
That I could actually have an expression of myself that existed beyond my inability to speak coherently of the abstract ideas that swim around my head all day. That you would have a chance to know me through an interface, not through my clumsy human body.
The internet, makes me understand what it means to feel connected to you, that through these connections we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, and within it holds the promise of what we can all aspire to be.
This is part of my “write on Medium like I tweet” series, mostly unedited and written in the spur of the moment.
Originally published on Medium
originally published on “The Life and Death of an Internet Onion”, a webzine that had a shelf life of an onion – 5 weeks – by @roombaghost, Aug 2021