I'm no sociologist, but I know that humans are social animals. It's a fact that in thousands of years of human history most people tended to live in small villages, towns or some other type of community. I can imagine that growing up and living in these communities people got to know each other pretty well. They talked on a regular basis, worked together, laughed together, disagreed together and in general, were a part of each others everyday lives.
Then the 20th century came and things started to change. With the industrial revolution came mass-produced items, then came the dawn of the automobile. The car made it much easier to commute farther distances and to live farther away from the community or town centers. And that’s just what they did. Mass-produced food and products distributed to local stores allowed us to be further away from food sources. In the 1950’s Mass produced communities were developed and people were firmly divided into their neat little boxes.The developments in technology and industry brought us to this place.
Next Mass media- Radio, and then television allowed us to be connected to people and events throughout the nation and eventually across the globe. So now you could watch things happening and feel like you were actually there. However this new “connector” was lacking one important way, there is no interaction. All messages sent via Radio or Television are implicitly one-way. You can talk, yell, or curse at your TV, (like I sometimes do when watching a good ball game) but our cries all falls on deaf ears. The one thing these devices did do was to get us off of our front porches, away from our town centers, and communities and plant us firmly on our living room sofa!
Ah, but there is one break-though device, that came out of this era of technology, the telephone, was and perhaps still is the single most powerful and immediate way to connect with those who are far away. But here the connection was with individuals– friends and family.
There are group and conference calls, but they are rare, and often just for business. The telephone helped individual connections to be strengthened, but what about the "community"?
Next, comes the PC, the personal computer. Did this help to strengthen our sense of community? Well certainly not at first.
like the TV, it planted us firmly on our butt's, but now we're not hanging out on the sofa with the family anymore. No, we’re off on the other room by ourselves. Not a great way to foster a social life, or a sense of community.
But wait, a glimmer of hope! email and the internet comes along and opens our computers up to the world. We can email individuals and even groups of people.
A quote by a twentieth century scientist states: "The Internet is the single most important development in the history of human communication since the invention of the human language" The human language allowed us to communicate with others near us, the internet enables to communicate with those around the globe.
Next AOL introduces us to the idea of chat. Not only can we chat one on one, but we can join a chartroom, or even an online forum to discuss ideas.Ok, so what if it's just a bunch of guys who want discuss Star Trek, This is the kind of thing that I'm talking about. Forums were a break through because they represent the coming together of people to discuss common ideas and interests.
Chat is a break though because it has immediacy, meaning it happens (more or less) in real time. But it's Still missing one important factor, Mass Adoption.
So now we are in the era of “Web 2.0” along with it comes new ideas and new ways to interact. Web 2.0 is defined as “The second generation of the World Wide Web, especially the movement away from static webpages to dynamic and shareable content and social networking” (en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Web_2.0)
I believe that humans are drawn together by common interests, conversations and the exchange of ideas. We were together in communities for so many thousands of years that social interactions are engrained in out psyches. Technology has worked to separate us for over a hundred years, and now, like water seeking it level, we are beginning to find more significant ways to use it to bring us together.
Facebook now has over 400 million users, 60% of these people logon every day! That's Mass adoption. If I want to see what my cousin in New York is up to I visit Facebook, If I want to look up my best friend from Kindergarden I go to facebook. If I want to send a message to my 70 year old uncle… you get the idea.
Many people haven’t haven't use twitter, but it brought about one important change in online communication: immediacy, conversations, and the exchange of ideas take place among large groups of people, all in real time. Think about one big chat room for the whole world.
If you want to keep in tune with what's happening right now across the world, you can find out on Twitter.
Another type of technology that has great applications are location based networks, including the rapidly growing foursquare. Foursquare knows where we are at any given moment, using GPS tracking all through mobile phones. Ok, so maybe it's scary that people can know where you are at any given moment, but this is the type of technology, once fully developed, will help bring us together.
As more and more people join social networks it's like the walls around them are dropping away. We can not only connect to people in our town or city. But we can connect with people globally over issues that connect us.New innovations are announced daily and right behind them, new applications and ways to use these technologies.
So how do we connect?
Nothing beats face to face contact, but if we must be in our own separate spaces, connecting through technology isn’t a bad substitute, and it getting better all of the time.