How the Internet Helped Me: A Bit of a Biography

The above clip is of one of my favourite comedians Louis C.K. I find his observations on the world utterly hilarious, and his delivery more precise than a toddler on an iPad. In this instance, however, he is completely wrong.

Let me explain why I take demonizations of this most remarkable thing called the Open Internet, and subsequent negativity addressed towards the supposedly spoilt generation it has apparently birthed, so very personally. Here is a taste of the schema I bring to the conversation.

My parents were peasants from Korea who immigrated to Canada in the seventies, a time I regard as a kind of golden era of North American immigration. Whenever they tell me about the Korea they left behind, it sounds a little to me like something out of a Zhang Yimou movie: pastoral and impoverished. They had almost zero formal education.

My parents, like a lot of immigrants at that time, worked a succession of factory jobs, and struggled through small business ownership. All the while, they learned English on the fly, if at all. My mother, to this day, sounds like she just stepped off a boat, as some of us are wont to say. On my first day of kindergarten as a three-year-old (December baby), I didn’t speak a word of English.

The first time I sat on an adult’s lap to have a book read to me was in kindergarten.

I didn’t know what a ‘cottage’ was until my twenties.

I was one of those kids that acted as an interpreter for my brother’s parent-teacher interviews.

Kraft Dinner, to me, was the height of exotic cuisine.

From a very young age, I realized that media and technology were going to be important – no, essential – if I was going to learn to be a contributing and active member of the world. I voraciously consumed TV, radio, music, newspapers, video games, cinema, and anything else I could get my hands on. It was my life’s blood. Although I didn’t learn the term ‘cultural capital’ until my university years, I knew its meaning intuitively.

As a young child in the eighties, this media was, of course, predominantly mainstream: The Cosby Show, Nintendo, Alyssa Milano. Hence, my twisted and hegemonic romanticization of mainstream society, of which I did not recognize myself a part. As adolescence dawned on my, however, I became almost a fiend for ‘underground’ and ‘alternative’ media, content, and art.

One of the closest people in my life, my cousins Diane and Julie, often call my teenage years The Dark Period (I prefer to call it my I Just Realized The World is F***ed Period). In a nutshell, a walked around with Jack Kerouac’s On the Road perpetually at my side, listened to weird 4AD music on my run down Sony walkman which was always and infuriatingly running out of batteries, and skipped school to see Robert Bresson films at the Carlton. I used to save up and literally travel miles just to get the latest edition of NME.

And then came The Internet. Turn the page.


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