It is easy to contemplate on the things that one already believes.
For the entirety of my life, I have had some type of access to the internet. Coming from a wealthy suburban town that was predominantly white, I never questioned why I had access to this type of connectivity or where it actually came from. It was an inherent necessity, like a God-given right. I have always had a base understanding of how to use digital technologies and the web. The community I was raised in encouraged the use of technology and had digital initiatives, such as learning how to type and how to use Google search in elementary school. When a student entered the ninth grade, a Google Chromebook was handed out to them, with the expectation being that this tool would enhance the student’s overall learning experience. The expectation was always to use the Internet to make your life easier.
My upbringing has largely determined my views on the digital world 🌎. I see myself as a digital native, someone who has always been exposed to digital initiatives and technology. I see technology as something that improves lives and enables access to many different areas of information that don’t have any hurdles to jump through. I see the Internet as something that is able to connect people and interests together and help form communities throughout the world. In short, I see the digital world as the future of society.
But on closer inspection, it is only what I have been taught to believe that formulates my preconceived notions of what the web is. This view that I held was fostered through my upbringing, by both my education and my community. What I have been taught is largely untrue for large swathes of the human population. This mentality is found throughout white America and reflects a juxtaposition between the idealist version of what the digital world could be and the unescapable reality of what the digital world is actually. It is this juxtaposition that I possess within myself, a conflict between my American and Asian-American identities .
It is hard to reflect on the fact that your beliefs that you have held for the entirety of your life, the ones that dictate the choices you make and what you do, are not what they seem.
The hardest realization that I have had is coming to terms with the fact that I don’t belong in the truly American version of the digital world. What I saw in myself and the digital age that we now live in is one that didn’t include an inescapable identity of myself: my race. I am on the fringe of the digital sphere, still a part of the overall world but not the typical person that our society pictures as the predominant user of the Internet. Even though I’ve grown up in a white community, attended a white school, had white friends, the unavoidable truth that I have found is the snap judgement of people based on a single factor. For however much I felt like I identified with the prototypical user of the internet, a wealthy, young white man, I’ve realized that there is no way that that user could identify with me.
On the other hand, too, the way I view myself as a minority compared to a black or Latino man is completely different and alien to myself, something I cannot comprehend. The type of racism that exists in our society is largely towards those of lower socioeconomic class. It is because of this that some may call into question the validity of the racism that I have faced, discrediting Asians as a “fake” minority. It is at this junction where I lie in the digital world, a limbo like place where either side tries to discredit the validity of why you don’t belong with them.
Yet, where I fall in the digital world is only one aspect of what others experience. Mine only involves race and culture because by chance, I happen to be male and young, with my family securely financed and comfortable. There are many other misfits who blend the lines between gender, age, ideology, and socioeconomic class, and many more who blend the divisions that I fail to recognize.
It is their existence, though, that connect people together and divulge the meaning of the reason we call the digital world a web 🕸.