Monday, July 18, 2011

A Smaller, Better World

Log on to the Internet on any given day, and you're likely to find an article or blog post about how bad the Internet is. We (and our kids) are spending too much time on our computers, too little time outdoors or interacting with other people, absorbing damaging material, blah blah blah. I sometimes feel bombarded by it, and it sinks into me, leaving a greasy, sick feeling that I'm a bad person.

And then the U.S. women's soccer team loses the World Cup.

"Congrats Japan" trended on Twitter to #2 that I saw, and well over 100 new tweets were loading every minute. Hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people were not only bonding over the experience of watching a tremendous competition, they were being good sports. Obviously, winning a soccer game isn't going to magically fix the challenges Japan has faced and is still facing, or the repercussions worldwide, but the whole thing raises morale, and the positivity seeps into everything else. And without Twitter (and all the other social media and Internet-based tools that make instantaneous communication worthwhile), the ripples wouldn't go nearly as far.

Anyone reading this post knows the power of the Internet. It allows millions of dollars to be raised in a matter of hours, for aid to victims of natural disasters everywhere. Via the Internet, regular people can team up with their favorite celebrities to go to Haiti to build schools. When a woman tragically loses a husband and finds herself a single mother of four kids, her friends thousands of miles away can mobilize to organize an auction, drawing donations and bidders on a scale unheard of when all we could do was put cans on convenience store counters for loose change.

All of that isn't even touching the smaller ways it connects us, like when I got an e-mail from my Hawaiian cousin I'd never met.

Any technology has the power to be used for good or bad, but I would far rather dwell on the ways it changes the world for the better. This weekend, I watched it happen, and it made my day brighter.

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