Creating content

Digital natives vs immigrants

Laila Faisal
2 min readMar 1, 2023

Day 55 of 100-day Creator Challenge

I hate it when people attribute my digital skills to me being a digital native.

I’m not.

When you Google the term digital natives it refers to the generation born after 1980. I was born in 1972. I grew up mostly in Indonesia in a village where even TV was a rarity. When we moved from the village to a nearby city a few years later my dad brought home an IBM5155:

This was the size of a sewing machine and weighed about 14kg (30lbs). You tilt it down, and the bottom opens up, revealing the keyboard, the 9-inch display and the two floppy disk drives (photo from Benj Edwards’ Twitter).

This came into the house when I almost finished high school. It was a prized possession in the house. I had the reputation of breaking things, and so I was only allowed to touch this when somebody else was around. Even that was limited as I was the youngest, and so my older siblings were higher in the pecking order.

When I was working at the university, most of the students there would fall into the category of digital natives if we took it purely by born after 1980. In 2020, most of the new students didn’t even have a living memory of 9/11. Yet, I was the digital expert who answered their digital questions and taught them the digital skills needed for university.

Just because they have mostly grown up with a computer in their pockets does not mean that these students have the right skills to be successful in academic work. There’s a lot more to digital skills than just scrolling through TikToks, or double tapping a post on Instagram.

They may be natives but they don’t really have the skills required in an academic setting. Just as some of Jaime’s friends who are of English New Zealand background can’t tell the difference between your and you’re; or their and there or even they’re.

They’re English natives but don’t have a real command of the language.

So how did I become good at computers?

Through curiosity, trial and error, and sheer stubbornness.

Eventhough I was banned from using the IBM5155 unsupervised, every time my dad or my older siblings were on it, I would pay close attention. When I was left home alone, I’d take it out and have a go. My parents didn’t think I could lift 14kgs from the wardrobe (where they would hide the beast) to the table But my curiosity and stubbornness outweighed it.

I was not one to be told I can’t do something.

Nativeness is not the same as generation.

We need a better term than natives vs immigrants. These terms are steeped in othering.

What are your thoughts?



Laila Faisal

Hi all, I am mum and BFF to a gorgeous girl. I'm exploring content creation and mid-way through an EdD. I'm reflecting on death since my ex-husband died.