As a “millennial” – as media like to call my generation – I grew up with the internet.
More specifically, I grew up with the progress of internet. As a kid, our family computer probably weighed more than I did, its screen was made of glass, it hurt my eyes to stare at it too long, and I couldn’t use the internet if my mom needed to use the phone. Nevermind that connecting to the internet in the first place could take up to fifteen minutes!
Today I’m typing this on a laptop that weighs less than two kg, with high speed internet that allows me instant communication with anyone, anywhere in the world.
Like hell I wouldn’t use that.
Yet older people (my parents’ generation and above, mostly), keep complaining that ‘young people these days’ spend too much time on the internet. “There’s too much porn on it” they say. “Too much violence”, “You’re becoming anti-social, staring at a screen all day”, “It’s rotting your brain and making you dumber”, “When I was a kid we used to play outside!”
And, okay, not gonna lie, most them are at least partly true (I have strong feelings about the “we used to play outside” thing and a lot of words I would like to say on the topic, but that’s for another time). Yes, there’s porn. It’s an acknowledged rule of the internet, even. Rule 34: If it exists, there’s porn of it. Yes, there’s violence – be it in the content put on the internet (video games, movies) or in some people’s action (cyber-bullying is a real threat, as is online harassment, especially online sexual harassment). But hey, guess what?
All that exists in the ‘real world’ as well.
And at least online you can curate what you see and read: the block button, the unfollow one, the report link and the back and exit buttons are your best friends. In real life, it’s much harder to ‘delete’ the comments or actions of someone harassing you or your friend: I’ve been reliably informed that that could be called murder, or at least homicide, and that it’s illegal.
Anyway, as I was saying: yes, there are bad things on the internet. There are bad things in the outside world as well, and I’ll complain about both thank you very much.
But there’s also good things on the internet, just as there are good things in the real world, and in both cases I think we sometimes need to remember them.
So, why do I think the internet is so great?
Well, I’m gonna start with one of the comments that really bugs me: “It’s rotting your brain and making you dumber!”
The internet has probably taught me more than school ever has. It’s a fantastic learning tool!
If you want to learn anything, odds are there’s a tutorial for it – I’m currently helping to edit these podcasts by using a free program called Audacity, which I downloaded from the internet and which I am currently learning to use through youtube video tutorials.
Do you want to learn how to cook? To bake? How to paint? How to change a tire? How to do your taxes? How to build a shelf? How to code? There’s a tutorial for it.
Leaving home for the first time, be it for uni or for work or for volunteering? Don’t know how to “adult” because there was no one to teach you, or who thought it needed teaching because it’s ‘so obvious’ to them? There’s a youtube channel for that! More than one, in fact, and I highly recommend taking a look at them.
Interested in a very specific topic, be it science, history or engineering? Many universities have online classes, some of which are even free! And there are many others willing to share their knowledge, you just have to dig around a bit to find it.
Do you want to learn a new language (maybe to prepare to go on a trip, or to prepare for this volunteering thing you’re going to do with the European Solidarity Corps)? There are many online language courses you can register for, and language learning apps are also aplenty! Same with music, programming, etc…
It’s a treasure trove of learning tools, and most of them are available for free!
The internet is not just full of learning tools, but also of creation tools!
I mentioned Audacity before, but it’s by far not the only free creation tool available online. If you are into art, you can download Gimp or Sai, for example. Lightworks is a good video editor from what my friends who make videos have told me, and Blender is apparently quite good when it comes to creating in 3D. Ywriter6 is a program that allows you to organise your writing into chapters and scenes, keep track of which characters appear when, which scenes are written in whose point of view, as well as of objects and locations.
And, of course, there are online tutorials available for all of these! You can find both the tools you need and the instructions for how to use them on the internet – two birds with one stone!
And if you can’t find the exact tool you need, well. Those coding tutorials might help you create it yourself! A lot of the above mentioned tools were created by artists and writers themselves, who saw a lack in what was already available and decided to do something about it.
But when it comes to content creators of any kind (music, videos, art, writing, etc…), the internet has so much more to offer than just tutorials or programs: it can offer you visibilty
The internet is a great way of making a name for yourself, of sharing your creations with the world and gaining your first audience. There’s Youtube for music and videos, Instagram, Deviantart or Tumblr for artists, online magazines, Wattpad, Tumblr again and multiples other platforms for writers… and many publishers are keeping an eye on those!
And if your projects are more ambitious, if you need funding to make them happen? Kickstarters and Patreon and other collective participation platforms are a thing, and can help you to be able to afford to focus on your project, or even finance their realisation in the first place! It’s also something you can use to show to publishers/agents/producers/financial backers that there is both an audience and a demand for what you are offering, and that they should really sign you on.
But even before that, before helping you gain notoriety and maybe making a career out of your hobby, the internet will help you find a community of like-minded people, of fellow creators!
Creating art, videos or writing can be a lonely business. But platforms like Tumblr, Ravelry, Twitter, Instagram, Deviantart and others allow you to get in touch with others who share your passion, and this is invaluable! Not only do you get a chance to learn from other people and share your own techniques, but you also get people to talk about your passion with, to brainstorm ideas with or to try and find solutions to your problems with.
A lot of these platforms also offer challenges to test your skills, some of them even offering prizes while others are just there to challenge you.
Inktober – A drawing a day during the month of October. This challenge is happening on multiple platforms – people share their art on Instagram, Tumblr, Deviantart, Twitter, etc… There aren’t any prizes, but there is an official list of prompts though you don’t have to conform to it, and many unofficial lists exists, some of them specific to a fandom or a theme. Inktober started in 2009 and still going strong!
Nanowrimo – A writing challenge! The aim is to write 50.000 words during the month of November – that’s around 200 pages in Times New Roman size 12 with double spaced lines. Nanowrimo started in 1999, and it provides a community, writing resources, challenges, all in one! You can also win prizes from various sponsors, all in the literary or artistic industry: ex: 50% off on Scrivener and Scapple, discounts on other programs, etc. It isn’t a competition in the sense that it doesn’t matter if you finish your 50.000 words before everyone else: as long as you hit the 50k by the end of November, you’re eligible for the prizes. And if you don’t? Well that still more words than you would have written otherwise! Nanowrimo also supports local initiatives and schools, along with the Young Writers’ Program.
For all that our elders like to complain about the time young people spend on the internet, it is important for them to realize just how much the internet has to offer for younger generations (and anyone who is willing to learn).
Of course, just like with everything else, it is important to find a healthy balance and not get lost inside. It is easy to get drawn in and forget to come up for a breath, and suddenly you’re watching a tutorial about how to comb giraffes with no clue as to how you got there.
Moderation, as with everything else in the world, is also the key when it comes to the internet.
Articolo di Sixtine Duvieusart