|After just a few years of being wired, many of us have come to take the Internet for granted. Seeing Naira and her sisters discovering fuel for their interests not bit-by-bit but rather by the bucket-load brought me back to my own early days of surfing.
Nune had collected hundreds of photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Sophia kept rushing over to me with her headphones so I could hear audio clips of her favorite movie stars. They were eating up the pop culture that had been largely unavailable to them in Iraq. They'd seen Titanic and many other American movies that I haven't. But western magazines, for instance, while available, cost the equivalent of a month's salary in Iraq. As Naira puts it, "Everything is forbidden, expensive and unavailable."
The web gives the girls endless photos, audio clips, video and all the essential particulars—star's favorite color, zodiac sign—they could ever want.
Searching for and finding such information shouldn't be trivialized. This kind of reward to one's interests and curiousity forms an essential basis for inquiry later in life. At some later age, when these Armenian sisters want to know more about the Armenian massacre for instance, they'll know how to find it.
Surfing wasn't the initial appeal of the Internet for the three sisters; online chat was. They would chat with others in Amman—mostly in English but sometimes toggling into Arabic. Through these chat conversations they were being given url's and thus began venturing out onto the web. Email too came into play. They were learning about the Internet through the medium itself. And making new friends. As Naira says, "We were very alone and didn't know what to do in Amman."
Although these interactions are online and thus lack the essential face-to-face aspect of human relationships, they do fill a certain need for peer-to-peer exchange. The girls have adjusted quickly and are sincere in their use of this new medium. When a friend told Naira that in chat sessions you're "allowed to lie", Naira was amazed. "I was believing everyone", she says. "I tried once to make myself male but I couldn't. I couldn't lie."