For more explanation of this month’s theme, “millennials in thirty things,” check out this post.
“You are not reading a wikiHow page on how to get over someone.”
(Sidenote: Once. I did it once.)
I turn my screen to my friend. “Look. Step number 2. I’m resisting the urge to turn to anger, and I’m seeking help.”
Help that came in 31 steps (5 parts). Complete with pictures.
We all know that millennials love the internet. We love it for keeping up with friends and for networking and for making ourselves marketable. But we also love it for the easily accessible information it provides.
“Who was that one actor in that one movie?”
“What hours is that one place open?”
Forget using your smartphone to call. You can Google it.
The internet has the answers. All the answers. No wonder I sought the internet in the ache of rejection, my moment of helplessness.
We love knowledge—but not just of people, places, and things; we love knowledge of all the verbs too. We love to know how to do things.
So when we say we do not know how to do something, we do not accept defeat. We do not even sign up for Tae Kwon Do classes and shuffle in two weeks later. We aim for instant gratification and appeal to the internet: we type “how to roundhouse kick” into the search engine of our choice, read up, and then strive to become the next Chuck Norris.
And suddenly, knowledge is power.
“When I was your age,” our grandparents might say, “we didn’t have time to spend hours on the internet. We were out actually experiencing the world.”
All those up-hills in snow, sleet, rain, and hail.
Talking to people and whatnot.
Figuring things out for themselves.
But the thing about wikiHow pages (or YouTube instructional videos, or whatever form your how-to of the internet comes in) is that we know there is no simple recipe for how to heal a broken heart, for how to build a boat in a nutshell (literally in a nutshell!), for how to blow fire.
We know that, in the end, wikiHow pages are really just like IKEA instruction manuals: they will not help us accomplish the task at all. They will be there to inspire us, to guide us, to motivate us (maybe out of frustration and anger). But in the end, we are going to have to figure out how to build that cheap, mass-produced piece of Swedish furniture on our own.
We know that our knowledge might begin with the internet, but in the end, if we really want to learn how to do things, we are going to have to get off the internet and experience it for ourselves.
We know that our knowledge might begin with how-to lists created and edited and re-created by people we do not know anything about (including their credentials in the aforementioned how-to subjects). But in the end, we are probably going to call Mom about how to make vegetable LEGO bricks; we will probably ask Dad to instill his knowledge on how to build a float (you know, for that parade); we will probably appeal to our friends on how to restore our faith in humanity.
But the wikiHow pages of the internet are a place to start. (Not always a good place to start, but a place to start.)
The website says “wikiHow to do anything.”
Because we believe, even if it is just for a pixelated moment of empowerment, that anything is possible.
Cassie Westrate (’14) graduated with a double major in writing and international development studies. She currently lives in West Michigan, where she works as a writer, hangs out with her pet bird, and fights crime by night. Just kidding about the crime.