May I introduce: Seela in the Digiland PART III: Growing up as a digital native: Comfort in diversities

The biggest thought in interviews with Seela – a digital native – was about diversities and how they help us to grow up as open-minded, inclusive persons. At Seela’s age, growing up in a multinational and multi-confessional Province of Vojvodina was my biggest profit. Still, this “multiness” was not enough to understand the value of acceptance. Those who raised me had their values rooted in tradition and patriarchy. Today, Seela’s globally orienting generation can be far beyond with acceptance, tolerance, and solidarity. Is it possible that the digital era has given her generation space to grow as individuals – unchaining them from traditional and analogical living?

How many applications you are using for daily life?

Bank is always the most important thing if you want to know your situation. Then for communicating with people, SnapChat and WhatsApp for family members. If you want to be in a contact with them. Anything that is on a smartphone is modern in my opinion. And then my alarm is there. If I need to remember something or just wake up, it is on my phone. And weather …and camera of course. It is always around. And yes, my blood glucose. I can measure it with my phone. I have type I diabetes. Now I can use my phone, need to get flex [flexible] with it. Everybody is like: “What is that? I want to have it.” It has more options there than at the regular blood glucose measure. Usually you do it with needles yourself. With the phone, you don’t have to do anything. You just wipe it. This is how I can measure my insulin things a little easier. I can see all the graphs when they go down or up. I can see the specific time of a day when it is usually low or high. I can change manually the insulin system in my palm. Because it is individual thing and I can change it by looking at my phone. It gives me the graphs.

 In your phone you are using apps to communicate with your friends. Which apps are you using to communicate? Do you phone more often or write?

 If the person is close to you, you can call or text with WhatsApp or with a similar app, but no one is using those with multiple people. The SnapChat is the most common one then. I personally don’t like the app but because I want to get in contact with people, I must have it. Instagram is an option, but it is more for the people you don’t know at all. Maybe you see someone very cool, a person that you want to know, and you send a private message and say: “Wow, you seem like a very nice person. I would like to know you.” Maybe you see a SnapChat from there and start talking. I’ve heard so many people done it. You can call SC, you can send the message and the picture with it. You can do basically anything. It is funny because it has filters. You can search any filter that you want. It might be a picture of a dog or a dog face or whatever you want. That’s the big part of the app. It is a fun way of contacting people.

What social media are you mostly using to present yourself? To show some stuff or your regular dog walks? You are doing diving and having a mermaid character. What about your fellows, are they supportive? Are you visible with this identity or? How do you call it?

 I think for representing style is Instagram. To present your casual life and what are you just doing is SnapChat, too. There are stories that you film about your life. All your friends and others who follow you there – they will all see it. But you can also send things privately. There are live forms there where you can have a group chat. This is more for the casual things but Instagram you use if you want to show how do you dress and how you want to be seen.

My hobby [mermaid diving, sharing diving videos] is not a usual thing. It is interesting because earlier people sometimes talked to me: “This is really weird, this is childish, this is nah”. Kids can say such things if you are not like everybody else. This was a reaction of some, but my friends have been supportive. It was very cool, and I didn’t really care if people said something bad about me. Then I got to know more people around. They didn’t say those things anymore. And really cool people got the interest about it. Maybe got impressed even. Maybe I sound a bit selfish, but I am more respected now. I am not hiding anything. And I am still nice to everyone and everybody is nice to me. Maybe too much sometimes but I think it is rewarded. There are no age limits or gender limits in my hobby. I went to Belgium to a convention of mermaids. And if you can imagine all those people, no one looks the same as someone else. Here when you look around maybe people are just a people but there everyone are themselves and it is really cool. I think I will do that again.

You became visible in Instagram. I’ve noticed that many people are following your character. Can you tell a bit about being world-widely connected? Was it a relief when you realized there are so many same kinds of people?

I was happy to meet more people around the world, how they like to do the things they do. And because I am the first teacher of this mermaid diving here in this city. Even adults asked me: “Can you teach us also, we want to learn to those things, it seems cool?” It was the best job I have ever done. My Instagram account is called Mermaid Selenia, this is my artist name. This is how I represent myself. Almost everyone who has this hobby, or a job, has the name for the character. You don’t want to mix it with the real world. People might start to call you with your mermaid name added in it. People did it to me. I was like, please don’t do that because this is not everything about me, that I do.

I love my videos because I have a professional underwater photographer doing this with me. It was maybe the best experience of my life so far. I think it was something different for him also because he is doing professional underwater shooting. Next summer I think I’m going to do more of these things again. It is fun to look back in time and see how you have progressed.

When you search for some community online with a need of belonging, for example, to your mermaid community, do you find it?

You can belong to every community existing out there by just commenting their activities or telling your story. And when you start sharing more information, maybe a picture of yourself, it can connect you to people who are not actually socializing so much. And people can see you, but you don’t have to respond. It is sometimes unnecessary to comment something. It can just make someone feel a bad emotion. I used to respond to mean comments before, but I realized maybe this is not the best thing to do. They might think I gain some emotion. When you get used to it you don’t think about it anymore. You just see it as a useless thing. I don’t really read all the comments.

Social media can start the fires and put them down. Does it disturb your generation? Is there any politics or rules you have for online space?

I think if it does influence on some other people I might pop in and comment like “this is not what you have to say here”. It can be insulting. Even sometimes in a real life I have to say to someone “this is not ok to say”. There is not much you can do, you can just be quiet and do nothing, it is easier than to say something hateful. It is not going to make anything any better. It is the same with the comments. If you say something phobic towards someone, I still will say something about it. Too many times I need to say this to other people. Maybe they realized it, maybe not, maybe one day they will get it. If I can affect someone’s opinion positively, I want to try and do.

Now I am curious to ask about – beyond – education. Gaining knowledge digitally and surfing for the information, how much is allowed now for you? Have you ever ended up into somewhere where is the stuff you don’t want to see?

I think it is possible. I haven’t personally ended up there. I’ve heard people getting viruses by going to untrusted websites and seeing nasty pictures if they search health things for example. There is always the risk, at least for the virus. We can choose from any site that is possible for our studies. And there is always more and more. This is why we can get tired really badly. When you have so much to surf, of course, you have more information. We are expected to know more, maybe they expect us to be professionals in the subject, not only trying to get us through the course. It is frustrating sometimes. And we get worst grades than we should. But I think it is nice to have more information. If you are really interested in something you can get things very easily from the internet.

Can you imagine one day without your phone? From awakening through the day?

Wait, I would probably go back in time, to do something that I have never done. I would probably knock my friend’s doors and ask: “Can you come out?” Then I go to the next one, cycling like ten kilometres. Ok, this is probably if I want to be in contact, I will do that. Of course, I must have my blood glucose measure and a clock for the alarm. Or my mom, she can wake me up because I still live with her. I don’t know, I would be pretty confused because my calendar is in my phone. I would have to check everything from the paper. And for the clock, I would always need to go to the kitchen and see what the time is, it is not in my pocket. So, it would change my daily routine pretty much. I only can imagine like ten hours without a phone when I am hiking or diving but not a day without the phone. And basic things like cooking. I usually have all my recipes in my phone. But if I don’t have them, I need to improvise. Also paying bills, couldn’t do that without a phone. Anything would be harder to do. Even that I actually lived an era without a phone. It was fun and nice, having no problems. Phone is somehow connected with it; it also will inform me about the problem.

Biljana Stankovic