A Boy and His Internet

“The internet can teach us in the way it taught this boy. It can connect us in the way I was connected to the reality in Egypt and his reaction to that reality.”

In the above video, we see a young boy being interviewed by a journalist about the political upheaval in his home country, Egypt.

It’s pretty obvious that the interviewer meant it to be a short clip where a child emotes inarticulately in a “can’t we all just get along?” fashion, providing a sound byte to tack onto the end of other people’s deeper, more involved commentary. What happened next was one of those startling moments that remind us how deeply ingrained our mostly irrational preconceptions are.

This kid isn’t merely being precocious. He’s not spouting off a bunch of cute platitudes his parents taught him, nor is he mugging for the camera to show how clever he is. He’s expressing his own extremely informed, intelligent views about the country he calls home. I had to read for about four hours to even understand what he was talking about.

When asked about how he knows “all this,” the boy says he “listens to people and uses his brain a lot” and “reads newspapers and searches the internet.”

The fact that this boy learned so much about his immediate surroundings by reading the internet should say something to us — about the power of what the internet can do, and about how our own pliability to curated information can change us. The internet can teach us in the way it taught this boy. It can connect us in the way I was connected to the reality in Egypt and his reaction to that reality. It can help us to share what we’ve learned among our other internet connections, as I’m doing here, right now.

This morning when I logged onto the internet, I checked my email, logged onto work (I work online), made a joke on Twitter, glanced at the news, and scrolled through Tumblr to look at entertaining memes. I’m guessing whatever this kid did when he first logged onto the internet this morning was a lot more worthwhile, and I’m glad he made me think about that.

Nathan Pensky is a writer and editor living in rural Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter.