The Internet changed my life dramatically.
As a teenager, I read a lot of self-improvement and travel books in English. One day, when I was 17 years old, a friend dragged me into an internet cafe in Phnom Penh, and my life changed forever.
I had always thought of the internet as an expensive luxury but I realised that the 50c I saved every week to buy books could be spent on internet access instead. Instead of one book, I could get in touch with the whole world. It was an amazing thought.
Soon, browsing through online English language forums was my favourite way of spending leisure time, and I spent every spare riel I had on internet access (50 cents per hour back in 2005.)
I loved writing and listening to the news in English. I was keeping a lot of diaries at that time, but they were private. I had started writing because I believed it was a way of letting off steam, but I soon found out that there was much more I could do with it.
One day, two Cambodian students whom I met on an English studying forum sent me links to two blogging forums; WordPress and Blogger. I quickly learnt how to create blogs.
I blog for myself; it helps me to improve my English, and it helped me stand out a bit, too. For instance, a professor at college asked me in my second year to demonstrate to others the power of blogging.
I helped a friend set up his blog to attract readers from other countries who were interested in Cambodian culture and music. After I graduated from college, I was invited to Europe, Russia, Africa and around Asia to set up blogging and social media platforms for youth-related events. Blogging has also helped me to find work writing and translating.
When I am unhappy about a particular social issue, I can turn to my blog and I will get solutions from readers or suddenly realise what I can do. I think this is one of the most interesting things that happens in this internet era.
For example, a young Cambodian man wrote to me to thank me for blogging about medical issues. His mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer, but he couldn’t afford to send her to a good hospital in Cambodia for treatment. After he read my blog post about affordable hospitals over the border in Vietnam, he travelled there with his mother, who is now recovering. He told me that I saved her life.
Writing a blog is like talking to yourself; helping yourself to discover who you really are as an author, thinker, or digital storyteller. I don’t necessarily still agree with things I blogged about years ago, but the process assisted me in trying to figure out who I was, and what I should be doing next.
Blogging enables me to speak out about issues that matter to me and other people. I have been able to freely discuss issues such as education, politics, culture as well as social barriers that we have faced. Strange as it may seem, much of the time people don’t understand their rights until they are taken away from them. Rights and freedoms must be fought for – they are not granted easily.
I’ve received regular requests to speak on the importance of blogging and social media for young women and girls in Cambodia. Young people often thank me for inspiring them to start blogging and speaking out about issues. The internet has changed my life in a gradual but meaningful way, and I can see it happening to others too.
Link to the original article: http://www.empowerwomen.org/blog/empowered-by-the-internet