The Qualitative Value of Social Media

Disclaimer: Anyone who knows me well knows that I could go on at endless length about the above topic. It’s one that — as an avid user of Twitter (@destroy_time) and media obsessive who spends hours and hours on a daily basis thinking about, reading, theorizing and, well, let’s be honest — scouring website after website acquiring new apps and sites. I had this conversation with a dear friend the other day about how both the entire structure of human knowledge and sense of place have been completely exploded by the relatively recent (<10 years) structural shifts in technology. i.e. — a sizable proportion of people in industrialized countries — let’s just say the G-20 for now — has access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity since Homo sapiens has existed. 

That alone is a stunning fact to absorb. If you have an internet connection, whether it’s via your decade-old Hewlett-Packard, MacBook Air or your iPhone, there’s practically nothing you can’t know at once related to your curiosity/need to know (me, in the latter part) and the trustworthiness of your ISP. In my case, that’s Comcast, which gets spotty and expensive in the late night hours when I tend to be most curious. Information is universal. Barriers of distance have completely dissolved; language is one of the few remaining obstacles to knowing practically the entire history and present of humanity. That barrier, too, is gradually but firmly being eradicated. Within the next decade, software will develop universal translation mechanics that reduce human languages to a universally decipherable and mutually intelligible system that will integrate us on a communicate system in which a farmer from rural Laos will be able — provided the technology — will be able to communicate with a Manhattan-based banker on an equal and fully comprehensible basis. 

Now of course there are issues in ensuring that such technology becomes universally available. I’ll get to that in time, as it is a critical issue and one that the international community needs to consider seriously. 

The other point that changes everything is the ubiquity of communication. Provided you have an internet connection — and in the developed world and much of what’s considered the “underdeveloped” world, that means a phone with a signal. That trend is accelerating and will only accelerate further. If not now, within the foreseeable future, every human being will be accessible instantly no matter their geographic location. That means you. And me. And everyone we all know or don’t know yet. 

Enough of a preamble, the entire point being that the entire nature of human relations for the entire history of humanity has been upended. The implications of this completely overthrow the rules of biology as they’ve applied to every species that have existed in Earth’s 5 billion year history. And we haven’t even started to digest what that means or what it implicates. Human history has changed and is changing before our very eyes and we’ve failed to digest the fundamental and yes, metaphysical changes implied thereupon.

I’ve given enough teasers related to what this eventual series will address. And I’ll get there. These issues occupy and have occupied a great deal of my mental timecard for years now. To the proximate point: this new social landscape has — for me — led to a worldwide network of friends I never would have even encountered in previous times. Friends I trust with my most intimate thoughts and feelings, friends who’ll be with me my entire life. People I’ve never seen face to face yet trust intimately. Friends whose username I see on Twitter and who make my day. Folks who have become genuine friends and intimates who I never would have known were it not for this radically different world we’re stepping into unaware.

Ultimately, this first point is just to emphasize that there are rewards and riches, spoils and despoils in this new world we understand tentatively at best. Yet it’s here, even if we don’t understand it yet. Failing to try, however, is no excuse.

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~ by Benji on 9 March 2013.

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