There is an escalated conflict going on in humanity and it has ancient roots. As long as humans have breathed, we have wrestled with the dark and the light – the unhealthy and the healthy – abject evil, and heart lifting goodness. There is a new twist in this universal law and that is that it is now being played out on a digitally enhanced stage – in real time. When any voice can now be heard across the world, any act can be transacted, and any piece of digital content can be broadcast the consequences of the intent of that act is multiplied. These acts are simply amplified at a massive level. This needs to put a higher focus on how we handle ourselves on the grid…
On channel one – the story of a bus monitor verbally assaulted by students and captured on video goes viral. It is actually a bit sickening to watch the way the youths treat an elderly woman. Millions watch it, and a strange thing happens; many of them reach out and donate money to her and that adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and she retires.
On channel two – a young man walks to the front of a movie theatre in Aurora Colorado and opens fire on the crowd killing many and injuring many more. Worse, he scars a nation that is slowly becoming less trustful of any stranger. As Matt Williamson says, it is interesting in the U.S. that when a masked person opens fire in a theatre, we ban costumes as the response. A thousand miles away a friend of mine struggled on whether to tell his teen age son about this when he gets home from watching the same movie – he does not want to shake him up at night. His son comes home and tells him that the theatre lit up within minutes of the shooting with tweets about it and everyone knew before the end of their movie. News travels in seconds in the Web 2.0 era.
On channel three – Kiva.org continues to grow into a micro-lending force that helps thousands of poor entrepreneurs in third world nations. I loaned $500 to ten different groups of women a few weeks ago and they will pay it all back within three months or so I am sure, and I will lend it to others. How do I know this? Because I have been lending on Kiva for three years and people always pay me back, even the most destitute. How would I have ever been able to do this directly ten years ago?
On channel four – we have on one side dating sites that are now responsible for bringing together thousands of couples every year who would have never met any other way. They provide a new avenue for finding a mate, and in many cases, a mate that is proving to be a great match. At the same time, we have kids texting suggestive or flat out naked photos of themselves in an attempt to look for love in all the wrong ways. With the predictable result of having their picture passed around all over the Web. Worse, we have people who want to famous who “release” sextapes in an attempt to get adoration from the masses – or as I call it, self produced porn – lovely.
On channel five – Huge online corporations provide free services and communities to us that provide high value connections and knowledge (e.g. Google and Facebook.) These services are fantastically advanced and useful. The only problem with the wonderful free services they give us is that we are actually the product they sell to others. Our privacy is a laughable thing at this point because they track every move we make and word we say online. We have traded our most private information in some cases for free online services. I wonder if people would really be OK with this trade if they actually could see the database file gathered under their name!
Technologies, and especially social technologies, are giving us the ability to multiply the blessed acts on a scale never seen before. At the same time, the dark side can be amplified as well. The technology toolbox we are being given now expands our reach, lowers the cost, and speeds up the connection to others and we will either use this toolbox to redefine how we treat each other, or it will simply become a reflection of how we operated in the past. This goes for corporations, and individuals. If you knew that a million people would see any act you did, would you do things differently? If you could see the ripples of impact that go out when you allow words, images or videos escape your keyboard, would you be more careful? If you knew you could help hundreds of people ten thousand miles away with just a kind word, or a small donation, would you do it?
We have amplified influence now – I pray we use it well…