The Digital Natives: Youth Culture (Part Three)

Kyle Bylin, Associate Editor

Growing Up

Personal_Computer_774 Some of the earlier experiences that I’ve had with music seem more easily related to than those that I’ve encountered in recent years.  After getting my first boom box stereo, of course, one of the first things I found, either through my own inquiry or (perhaps) someone else's example, is that I could record songs off the radio.  With a bit of patience, luck, and timing, this enabled me to listen to songs on my demand.  From where I lived, the request line at the radio station was long distance.  Thus, waiting for the next song to play was my only option.  Overtime, my collection of mix tapes grew.  Although many of them were poorly labeled and contained song orders that lacked any kind of logical progression, this was my music collection…

It wasn’t until my father bought his first Walkman CD Player that the music experience I had seemingly sought after all along was within my grasp.  I say ‘seemingly’ to the extent that this ability to exert control over my experience and isolate myself from my immediate reality is all that I’ve ‘seemed’ to do since this discovery.  However, the hindrances of both mediums would not be precluded until became old enough to earn money and buy my own CD’s.

My first encounter with the Internet is a vague recollection, but the pixelated graphics, awkward fonts, and boxy pages haven't slipped my memory just yet.  At the time, having a limited knowledge of its uses, my interests online consisted of searching for video game cheat codes, custom GI Joe’s, and miscellaneous military stuff.  E-mail and instant messaging slowly followed, first with Excite.com and ICQ, then onto Hotmail and MSN Messenger in March of 2000.  I suspect that it wasn’t until a year later that my older brother had downloaded Audiogalaxy onto our computer, but it wasn't a revelation of any kind with Dial-up Internet that connected at 28k.  Over the period of night, the music folder on the computer might have a few new songs in the morning. We had a CD Burner too, but at its slow speed, the thirty minutes to an hour that it took, didn't produce anything actionable.  I don't believe that any of us even understood how it really worked, where the music came from, or what implications it had.  Around this time, MP3.com became the thing to do while in the computer labs at school.  Soon after, the Merry Mayhem Tour with Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie came by our area and my older brother offered to take me with.  After attending my first concert in November of 2001, it had a dramatic impact on how I viewed myself as a music fan and from that point on live shows became my passion.

Where I grew up, there wasn't a hierarchy of cliques, insiders, or outsiders, there were just people and we all knew each other. Its apparent to me now that that those around me tended to be more passive listeners, whereas I was active in my pursuit of discovering and purchasing new music, as well as garnering a collection of band t-shirts. This individuality made me stand out from my group of friends, in the way that I belonged based on location and shared interests, but on a deeper level, I was different.  This increasing sense of individuality didn't place divide between those around me and I, in fact it was easily overcome. On the surface, we still had common experiences that connected us, whether it was AC/DC 'Back in Black,' Garth Brooks 'Friends in Low Places,' or Third Eye Blind 'Semi-charmed Life,' we had been raised on radio and MTV's 'Total Request Live.'  Commonalities in this domain, created a platform to start from, a bridge for a gap if you will, so that no matter how different I was or became; those around me were all tied together by mass broadcast music and our memories of it.

Read Part One (A Generation of Broken Robots), Part Two (Pirates At Bay), Part Four (Online Fandom and Community) and Part Five (Conclusions)

Share on: