If Facebook were a person, it would be older than most RadioActivians. This audio clip explores what it’s like to grow up online for four teenagers – from falling in love to watching trolls – and mixes fiction interviews with an imaginary protagonist: the Internet.
[RadioActive Youth Media is KUOW’s radio journalism and audio storytelling program for young people. This episode was entirely youth-produced, from the writing to the audio editing.]
INTERNET: Welcome to the Internet. Here is an overview.
[Notification sounds. Music fades in.]
FINCH: I guess the first two things that come to mind are in a way a safe haven and exclusivity that is strangely contradictory.
TEYO: They love to argue, they love to say things, and other people don’t like it when they say things.
FREDDIE: Facebook and my little AOL account when I was six years old taught me, you know, not to give your name to strangers. And do not give your information, you know, just the basics of internet security.
JACKSON: There were a lot of people who wanted two forty-year-old men to kiss a lot and write fan fiction about how they are in their 50s, and then one of them dies of cancer or something — just very bizarre.
[Music fades in.]
INTERNET: I can bring you community. I can bring you acceptance. I can bring you love.
FREDDIE: The best experience I had online was meeting my boyfriend. I was 15 when I met my boyfriend and we became really good friends right away. And that was almost four years now. We are still together. Now we live together, so yes, I would say it was a pretty positive experience in my life.
FINCH: I ended up making friends out there with a few people who were like really, really, sweet and kind and like nice people who actually ended up helping me a lot.
TEYO: I’ve been able to find other people who are non-binary, other people who are colorful, other people who share – who are like me in certain ways and also share my interests.
FREDDIE: As a kid, I used to think I was not a little girl. I did not refer to myself like that. But I just did not have the terminology to refer to myself as I really was. And it was only when I got on the internet that I started learning these different terms and I learned to define myself.
FINCH: Oh, it’s a thing that other (people) experience, that’s a thing, and not just a weird freak anomaly that I’m experiencing.
INTERNET: Some may say I bring discourse, arguments and anxiety … but is it really my fault?
[Music fades in.]
FREDDIE: It’s so exhausting to be a minority on the internet. It just seems like every stupid thought that people have about minorities is constantly being thrown in my face.
FINCH: It can be a lot more abrupt and be like, “Oh, your name is ‘j * w_k * ller.'” [sarcastically] It’s a cool thing to watch on my Friday afternoon trying to play a video game with my friends.
FREDDIE: Like, it’s no use trying to get in conflict with a racist on the internet. Because I know in the end, it’s just me who ends up getting hurt.
INTERNET: Well … it’s not a good look I must admit. But I’m not all to blame. I am simply a resource, a tool to be used by others. I allow you to connect. How you choose to do that is up to you.
FREDDIE: My favorite part of the internet would be, I guess, being able to meet new people so easily, being able to get in touch with them about things that it would be so much harder to do in person. As you know, you can meet someone on another continent.
TEYO: You know, the kind of connection that I think is a kind of internet point, sharing information.
JACKSON: Like I opened a coconut the other day because I did not know how. And I posted a YouTube video and I used a hammer and screwdriver and it was rotten inside. But I did – now I know how to do it.
TEYO: There have been many similar games I have played with very short-lived interaction. Play where you are like, in a room with people you do not know and do not need to get in touch with. And people against all odds are positive.
I think it’s one of the best feelings on the internet, just to be like it’s five people I do not know, who’s nice, that I’m nice to. Everyone comes together. It’s just a sweet thing. It’s like, “Hey, let’s have fun.”
[Music fades in.]
INTERNET: From RadioActive …
LUCAS: I’m Lucas Galarneau. Thank you for listening to this RadioActive podcast. Thanks to my interviewees, Freddie Frogman, Jackson Costello, Teyo Lee and Finch Cottle-Simon. And thanks to my mentor, Sonya Harris, and my editor, Lila Lakehart.
TEYO: Okay, my favorite social media is going outside for a walk. That’s my answer.
This RadioActive Youth Media podcast was produced in an advanced producer program for high school and college students. Production Assistance by Sonya Harris. Prepared for the Internet by Mary Heisey. Edited by Lila Lakehart.
Support for KUOWs Radioactive comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center.
If you have feedback on this story, please email Radioactive at firstname.lastname@example.org or find Radioactive on Twitter @kuowradioactive. Or you can just click the feedback button on the right side of this page. Reach out. We listen.
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