I'm not the only one whose first love was the Internet.
Long before I had discovered any kind of person crush, the Internet gained my trust with Audrey Hepburn & people who understood not liking Aaron Carter, which was a big, stick out deal at the time. The Internet subsequently broke my heart when it showed me famine all over the world. It was no longer one photo on the front of a newspaper; after link after link of hungry children was a huge shock to my preteen system. Mass suffering wasn't real to me until I saw it online. The first time I ever saw the Internet, it was helping me play the game that came with the Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia, which was my favourite thing. Ever. Unlike the kids at school, the Internet told me that was okay to crave knowledge.
In many ways, the Internet knows me better than most people ever will. I've asked it all of the personal questions I was ashamed to admit I didn't know the answer to. From YouTube clips of Audrey Hepburn to long nights of reading endless Wikipedia articles about the history of baseball, it has shaped my entire being. It taught me how to get too skinny, but introduced me to people who have helped me recover. It made me hate & love; myself, politicians, style, & the world. It hasn't replaced human contact for me by any means. It does not embrace me, but rather IS; the closest thing to an omnipotent being that science has created thus far.
I write this love letter because I am saddened to see the Internet reduced to a place where people commit mental bulimia, binging an purging useless information. Parents are terrified of it, but with reason. On the news, Internet users are mean and evil. You become the only person with common sense. Every kid has a Blackberry, but we all treat is like some shady alley. First there was cyberbullying, then there was sexting... To me, "thinspo" has been around since the beginning of time. In our minds, it's place to go instead of a tool to use.
I'm just as scared as you. Knowing how much more advanced this technology will be by the time I decide to give birth will make me want to lock any potential children up and insist in quill & ink always, forever. But in reality, what isn't working is our attitude towards the Internet. Parents monitor their children and look for suspicious activity instead of encouraging creativity. Minds are limited. The Internet becomes seen as a playground, with rules that are just begging to be broken. It's hard to visualize it as anything beyond a social network with boundaries, when there is so much potential to share & succeed.
I'm not encouraging that precautions be dropped; just that potential be met. When my parents handed me Microsoft Encarta, they had no idea that my love of information would one day turn into a love of blogging, which got me in a famous teen magazine, which connected me to Campaign School for Women, which helped me start numerous protests and drives for change, which guided me as I set up a STAND chapter, and which inspired me to speak at the Girls 2012 conference on this very topic.
More Than Sexting encourages a new view of the challenges and opportunities of being online in a positive way. This is not a class on safety, though that will be touched, but a lecture on inspiring young creative writers, self publishing, and the democratization of the ability to express yourself. Participants will learn about various kinds of social media, but more importantly, how to actually create change using them. Interviews with successful feminist bloggers, hands on approach to writing, and analysing the benefit of social media in different cultural revolutions (not just the ones you've already heard about, I promise) will all come together in an hour long workshop devoted to analysing how so many of us become afraid of the Internet yet use it all of the time.
March 9th & 10th at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax
Please feel free to e-mail me for more information.