Sometimes I am nostalgic. I say things like: Do you remember when there were no computers? Do you remember there was a time before the internet? When photos had to be developed and nobody posted things on Facebook? Everybody would call me a “digital native” because I am “a person who was born during the general introduction of digital technologies” (Wikipedia). That’s correct, but I still think I am not one of them.
It didn’t come naturally to me, the internet and the technical stuff. I only began to be really interested when I was already in University. I remember one day some eleven-year-old boys visited us, the editors of the student online magazine, to learn something about media studies. I saw one of them pressing a strange combination on the keyboard to see all open windows on the desktop at once. How did he do that?? I was too embarrassed to ask him.
This boy was a digital native. I am not! I am the girl whose parents would allow only one TV and one computer in the household for a very long time. Who until today doesn’t know how to use a games console. I bought my first own laptop in 2007 and used it to write stories, never surfed the web to consume useless stuff or played games that would make me aggressive or violent. No, really, I didn’t.
I remember I started this new thing called “chatting” on the internet, in a chat room named “Knuddels” (wow, that site still exists, I just googled it!!) It was something my parents worried about a lot. They visited a seminar in my school where they told parents to watch the internet activities of their kids because they mights chat with pedophile strangers. (Do parents still do that, I wonder? Or did they all surrender to Facebook and the like?) I never found much delight in talking to strangers, so didn’t use “Knuddels” much. It was different with MSN or ICQ, because there I could talk to my friends. I spent whole evenings chatting with them, but that was only a phase, too. Today when I want to talk to my friends, I call them or meet them personally.
I also used the German social network “SchülerVZ” (that doesn’t exist anymore, equally gobsmacking!! Facebook killed them all) I exchanged messages with my friends and collected these stupid funny groups. Then everybody switched over to Facebook. I remember thinking: this is weird. Why should I click “I like” all the time? Some months I couldn’t start off with Facebook. I was ignored by almost all of my friends there, until I stared liking stuff and posting stuff. Suddenly I got feedback, it was a strange feeling but nice. I got a little addicted, I admit it, but only a little. (Today I know how to protect my privacy better, also because I learned a lot about technology, cookies and so on. And I simply don’t post important things on Facebook.)
I refused to buy a smartphone for a long time. I simply didn’t see the point, all I needed was a phone and text messages, right? Then my boyfriend didn’t need his old iPhone anymore and I was lost. Today, I would never again want to miss my map with GPS when I am in a foreign city. And I google things all the time. I am living the digital environment now, but I wasn’t born there. I tried everything out, but always a lot later than the others, and mostly discovered after a time that I didn’t like it. I am no digital native, but also no digital immigrant. There should be something in between, like “digital fellow-runner” or “pragmatic digital person”, and that’s me.