Today I'm writing to you from Hong Kong where I've been staying for the past week. I was invited to be a judge at the Hong Kong Global Design awards. I started thinking about what brought me here, to a country hundreds of miles from my home, and it led me to the same place I usually find myself: the internet.
If there is one thing that had the biggest impact on my life, it's the internet. It gave me a career I love. It gave me friends from around the world. It gave me the opportunity to write to you right now from Hong Kong, a city I've never been to before.
Writing from my hotel room in Hong Kong in 2016
Occasionally I'll look through my Google Analytics audience stats, or review our Semplice.com orders, and see where everyone is from. It always feels magical to me. Seeing people from Vietnam, Germany, Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Columbia – everywhere across the globe – are reading my writing or using my product. It's why I love the internet so much.
The friends I've known the longest, I got to know through the internet. None of my friends from school have remained, but those I met on the internet have. Some good friends I've known for more than 10 years and never even met in person, even though I talk to them on a daily basis. In some cases, I don't even want to meet them in "real life." There is something special about online friendships.
People sometimes look at our generation's relationship to the internet and shake their heads, which is fair. Not everyone has to understand it, but we all know it's the future. The world is shrinking.
Of course, this is the introvert speaking in me. Other introverts will know what I'm talking about. If there is one thing we introverts have been waiting for forever, it's the internet.
The gatekeepers are gone
My personal life aside, the internet has also made a huge impact on my professional career.
The only reason I have a job today is because I bypassed the gatekeepers. When design universities declined me, I opened up my own design studio and tried to establish it online so I could get clients. One of my first international clients reached out to me on Twitter. I had about 200 followers at the time, half of them probably bots.
With the internet, we're celebrating the death of the traditional gatekeeper.
Back in the day, if you were a band, you needed a label to promote and publish your music. Today you can do everything yourself with the help of Soundcloud & YouTube.
Back in the day, if you were a book author, you needed a publisher to print and publish your book, and the chances you'd be rejected were high. Today you can self-publish through email, blogs, ebooks or even Amazon.
Back in the day, if you were a filmmaker, you needed expensive hardware, a team and often someone who would distribute your movie. Today, you can shoot a movie on your iPhone, edit it and publish it straight to YouTube or Vimeo.
The same goes for so many other industries.
Nothing is standing in your way now. On the positive side, that means you and I can do whatever we want. On the negative side, it means you have millions of people competing with you. Luckily, most people still don't take full advantage of the internet, even today. You can still be one step ahead.
Today you don't need the approval from anyone, you can do whatever you want. The only question is, for how long?
New gatekeepers are slowly emerging in the form of closed ecosystems (the App Store) or heavily controlled social networks that manage the majority of traffic (Facebook). While you will always have freedom to chose the platform, things will eventually become harder in the future.
The internet played a huge role in my life. It's our responsibility to keep it that way. Seeing countries or corporations trying to manipulate access to the internet for a certain group of people is something that saddens me. We should never let this happen.
If you're lucky to have access to the same Internet as me, use the shit out of it. Do the things you always wanted to do because now you can, and you can do so independently of your location.
So if there is a perfect time to do the thing you always wanted to do, it's today more than ever.
Yes, this is a love letter to the internet. A love letter to all of you.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!