It’s a small world after all…

February 22, 2011 at 6:17 pm (Somewhat Serious) (, , , , , , , )


Photo courtesy of Kenneth Lu

Growing up in this age of technological change has allowed me to see both sides of the coin. I remember when we only considered our friends to be those people we had actually met in person. You could only really build a relationship with someone who you spoke to in person. Your social network consisted of those people you interacted with on a daily or weekly basis, in person.

With the exponential explosion of online social networking, I began to hear stories of people who counted among their friends people from across the globe, whom they never spoke with on the phone, much less knew face-to-face. And I thought that was very weird. How can you know someone through the cold infrastructure of optic cables and servers…how can you really care about them like you might your neighbor next door?

Yesterday, there was another earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. I have never been to New Zealand. The closest I’ve ever been to meeting someone in person from that part of the globe was seeing an exchange student from Australia in the halls during high school.

But I do know a woman in New Zealand. Through the cold infrastructure of optic cables and servers. She’s a fellow lampworker, who frequents the same forum I do, who friended me on Facebook. I’ve never met her face to face.

The emotional reaction I had to hearing that there had been another earthquake was as valid and real as if it had concerned one of my relatives. My first thought wasn’t “Those poor people,” it was “Fiona! Is she OK?”

And I’ve learned an important lesson. You can know someone through technology. The world has gotten much smaller, not colder and more distant. Social networking has allowed us to reach out and embrace each other from afar, people we never would have known existed 20 years ago.

And isn’t that connection really what it’s all about?

Where we used to be limited to forming connections with those in our own towns or cities, the whole world now awaits our participation in its construction. I don’t need to see your face to know you. I don’t need to hear your voice to know you. I only need to reach out and connect, and you are now part of my world.

So the next time someone bemoans how distant the world in becoming, I will be more skeptical that they are choosing to withhold their contribution to the social network that exists in the clouds. Because those creepy little mechanical puppets in the Disney ride were correct in their little cult mantra: “It’s a small world after all.”

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