Growing Up with the WebSaturday, May 5th, will mark my 18th birthday. That is pretty substantial, I think. No longer will my parents be responsible for me or my actions, nor will I need their hand-holding to do what I might want to do with my life.

I spent some time the other day, flashing back to numerous periods throughout my (very short) childhood, quickly realizing the truth behind people’s advice to enjoy youth while it lasts. I mean, I can’t begin to explain how much I just want to go back to the days before school, when all I really did was eat PB&Js and play Jumpstart games on my old IBM (which was, of course, pretty new at the time). Over all, I think I’ve done well for myself so far, and things can only get better (I hope).

I think it is interesting to note that my generation is really the first to have grown up with technological advancements such as the Internet and the Web. When I was in my infancy, so was the Web, and we pretty much grew up together.

The more I used it, the more the Web became my go-to resource for just about everything. Considering the focus of my seven-year-old self at the time was video games, I spent tons of time researching hints, walkthroughs, and game mechanics that would help me master the games I was so hooked on.

At the same time, though, I was slowly beginning to understand how to create content for the Web, rather than just consume it. So I suppose one might say that the Web assisted in my intellectual growth, while I contributed to its growth in terms of content (it probably wasn’t relevant content, but it was content nonetheless).

As I progressed through the school system, the assignments and projects became much more taxing on the capacity of my knowledge. Where in the “olden” days kids might have had to resort to their local library to research topics for papers and experiments, I and others of my age were able to quickly access the information we needed using the Web.

Another way the Web impacted my later school years was in terms of my social life. I’m going to honestly say right here and now that I am not a social butterfly that, say, my older sister was. I can’t even remember a time when I visited a friend’s house to hang out or meet up at the mall or something similar. Yes, I’m introverted and a bit of a recluse, but I’m still social. However, the route through which I participate socially is that of the Web, rather than face-to-face contact. I adopted the growing social networks relatively quickly, and so did my friends. As a result, the Web was my primary method of communicating with others.

I think the Web has opened up opportunities for me that I otherwise would never even dream about. For instance, I can attribute my programming knowledge, as well as my activeness in the open source realm, for the most part to the Web and its utilities. I know far more than most college undergraduates entering a computer science program, and I’ve participated with a myriad of people on multiple different projects that impacted an even greater number of people. I am also now in line for possible internships at companies like GitHub and Amazon. All of these things are made possible with the Web, and I foresee many more opportunities to present themselves through similar outlets.

What do I recommend to kids now? Use technology to the fullest. My generation, as well as those of the future, have been given amazing tools and access to information that far outperform and outstretch those of previous generations. If you have questions, search for the answer. If you want to create something new, nothing is stopping you from doing it now. If you aren’t using the Web and new technology, or you aren’t following the trend of the way things are headed, you might want to think about doing otherwise.

Am I sad that my childhood has come to an end? You bet. Am I terrified at how life might decide to smack me around in the future? Without a doubt. Do I have confidence I’ll still do just fine from here on out? With the help of the Web, as well as the people I’ve met through it, I believe so.