For years, we were passive, watching and listening to whatever was broadcast and reading whatever was written in newspapers and magazines. And by and large, we were unable to affect the world around us. Then came the World Wide Web and changed our world. The Internet revolutionized all media when it introduced interactivity.
The Internet has created the ideal platform to connect the whole of humanity into a single network. The number of Internet users world wide is already in the billions. It is only a matter of time before the Internet becomes more ubiquitous than TV. As many global events have recently demonstrated, the Internet has become a potent player in society, capable of instigating, if not initiating revolutions.
Today, the mass of Internet users can do almost anything, from causing the rise and fall of pop stars, to the rise and fall of despots. Thanks to the Internet, social and cultural processes such as the recent revolution in the Arab world are accelerated and widely publicized. The Internet allows us to start a global hugging campaign, avenge fraudulent companies, promote anti-establishment films, and facilitate the people’s election of new presidents.
With a mere click of a mouse, we can be anywhere in the world and communicate with almost any person on the globe.
The Future Is Here
Indeed, the World Wide Web has become an instrument that allows for the promotion of ideas, an open arena for discussion, and a place that can motivate people into action. Because of all this, the Internet can serve as a common infrastructure that facilitates our emergence from the multidimensional crisis we are now experiencing. Unlike previous crises, this crisis comes alongside a vastly developed communication network, which penetrates almost every home that has power, and in which billions of communication messages are exchanged daily.
Thus, precisely because of the crisis and the transformations taking place in today’s communication era, the Internet has evolved into being a key system as we enter into and maneuver through our new world. We must use the web to nurture ideas that connect people, to work on strengthening our ties, to share information, and to create virtual support systems.
The only obstacle preventing humanity from achieving this much needed consideration of others and of Nature is our own separatism. Currently, we are attempting to resolve the crisis by dealing with the symptoms rather than with the cause. We are exerting mammoth amounts of energy and resources trying to do things like eliminate poverty, promote human rights and democracy, prevent the planet’s ecological collapse, prevent exploitation, and fight corruption. While these are all worthy causes, we will not resolve any of them before we resolve the root issue of the human egocentrism that causes them.
We could induce a global change in all realms of life, but for this we need a place, an arena where speech is free, global, and accessible to all; and the Internet is precisely that arena. In it, we can and should establish creative and pluralistic discussion regarding the ways to create a new financial and ecological order that is both fair and considerate to all, yet also allows for personal initiatives to flourish to everyone’s benefit.
The technology to bring everyone together exists today. As soon as we unite everyone around this idea we will be able to promote ideas of cooperation and mutual reciprocity, and generate the necessary positive global change very quickly.
Toward a Deeper Connection
In a lecture titled, “The Anthropology of YouTube,” at the Library of Congress on June 23, 2008, Prof. Michael Wesch, a senior anthropologist from Kansas University, demonstrated the new need that he was detecting on the web: “We’re becoming increasingly individual,” he said, “But many of us have a very strong value and desire for community. So the more individual we become, the more we long for this community.” Barry Wellman, director of NetLabs and a professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, explained that we are experiencing “networked individualism.” Wesch believes that this need reflects a longing for a cultural value that is fundamentally lacking in our lives—bonding.
The friction between our growing egos, which strive to detach us from one another, and the direction of our development toward becoming a global family, can yield a better and more sustainable connection between us. We can rise above the barriers that separate us—race, culture, sex, language, and religion—and without denying our indigenous uniqueness, find a deeper point of connection that does actually exist beneath our superficial differences.