I remember listening to snippets of The O.C. soundtrack on the official O.C. Website on Windows '98 in the early 2000s. Each snippet was 15 seconds long, and you had to pay if you wanted to listen to the whole thing. I remember my mom getting mad at me because I was always wasting her ISP Bonanza Prepaid Internet Card listening to these 15-second snippets.
I had MSN, Myspace, Friendster, Multiply and Hi5 accounts in 2004. I was all over social media before Facebook, Instagram and Twitter even became a thing. I'd play around on Paint and "edit" photos on Adobe Photoshop CS3, which I then ended up posting on DeviantArt, where I found my appreciation for photography. The internet was still extremely slow, but now we had LimeWire, and I was finally able to listen to The O.C. soundtrack in full on my iPod Nano. At the time, I didn't think I'd grow up to have a career that would be heavily influenced by all of these things combined.
At an early age, I was determined to go to Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and become a professional chef with my own T.V. show, like Julia Child or Wolfgang Puck. I ended up going to George Brown College for Culinary Arts and got a restaurant job.
I felt inferior as a young Filipino woman fresh out of Culinary School, surrounded by older men who liked to cuss every single time they spoke during a 10-hour shift. After some time, I realized that I no longer wanted to work at a restaurant. It's repetitive, labour-intensive, and I never got a chance to be myself fully — a person who wants to create.
I turned to the internet to express myself. I started to discover and learn new things, even made new friends and collaborators. It felt good to be online.
To me, the internet is a magical place where you can easily connect with people who have the same interests as you, but it has also grown to be very fast-paced and over-saturated. There's always something new. Whether it's a celebrity being called out, news about the current pandemic, brands being relatable to sell their product or political debates — it never seems to slow down.
When I worked in PR and as a full-time Social Media Manager, I'd wake up and go to sleep with social media in mind. Even though I worked in an office from 9-5, it wasn't always easy to turn it off. I was able to access work by my fingertips. In return, my colleagues also had access to me by their fingertips, even after hours.
I realize that we now live in the age of attention economy that's centred on social media. A world that reads the headlines and immediately forms a strong opinion without the full context.
I recently finished reading How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell.
She says, "Sometimes boycotting the attention economy by withholding attention is the only action we can afford to take. Other times, we can actively look for ways to impact things like the addictive design of technology, but also environmental politics, labor rights, women's rights, indigenous rights, anti-racism initiatives, measures for parks and open spaces, and habitat restoration—understanding that pain comes not from one part of the body but from systemic imbalance."
This quote made me re-think how I want to use my time online. As someone whose work still involves the internet, I can't just delete my apps and call it a day. But I want to be more mindful of where I focus my energy. These days, I make an effort to disconnect and spend less time scrolling. I use tools to be more efficient and schedule a time to catch up on my feed.
I think it's a matter of finding a balance. Technology is going to continue evolving. The future may even look like how it did in Her, the 2013 film written and directed by Spike Jonze, where artificial intelligence is even more advanced and involved in our lives.
Currently, I'm doing a research project on sound and documenting different parts of everyday life with the intention of letting the audience hear and feel everything with clarity. In a way, I also use this project to pay close attention to things outside my screen.
In the future, I'd like to live a slower life. I want to have a kitchen with lots of natural light, cook, pickle vegetables, and bake all the time. I want to take up gardening and make ceramics in my home studio. I want to spend more time basking under the sun and feeling everything with clarity.
If the digital and real world remains intertwined, which I think it will, I'd like to master using the internet with conscious intention. That way, I can still achieve a slow lifestyle while being connected, and I can wholeheartedly say that I'm living life to the fullest.
Name: Ria Elciario
Occupation: Creative Consultant + Content Strategist + Founder of She’s Got Wonder
@ name: @riaelciario, @studioheights, @shesgotwonder, @sundaycherie, @legumesallday, @sounds___of (sorry, this is extremely ridiculous)
First time online: Age 6