April 28, 2010

The Power of the Internet

When television came on the scene, there were many who decried the time it would take from family and other such negatives. Fred Rogers was one of those who saw its potential. He spoke passionately about the possibilities for using television to reach many and educate them.

Society has a love/hate relationship with the media. We resent its intrusive, gossip-mongering aspects but rely on the information we get from it. The internet in particular has begun to impact daily life. Never before could people on opposite sides of the globe receive information seconds after it happened. This possibility (like television) is a two-sided sword. We all have seen negative aspects: misleading information and rumor that (in Chesterton's memorable phrase) goes 'round the world before the truth puts on its boots. It's harder to see the phenomenal possibilities of the internet bear fruit.

Then I read an article with a beautiful example.

Two male fans started a web site last January in hopes of getting a hug from Taylor Swift. She learned about it in March, and she issued some challenges to the two guys. Rather than ask for displays of slavish affection, she asked them to do good deeds (helping a little old lady across the street as the first one). The two collegiates responded with a video montage of them (and many others from around the world) helping people across the street as a result of Taylor's request. She challenged them to do some creative deeds involving the number thirteen (her lucky number). They responded on April 13 with a video of deeds like giving 13 roses to the woman they helped across the street, submitting 13 items each to a food pantry, picking up trash on 13th street, paying for $13 of gas for a stranger, and helping a small boy meet his favorite Auburn baseball player (who wears jersey #13). Two days ago Taylor Swift showed up at a karaoke session the guys were having in an auditorium on Auburn's campus to give each of the guys a hug--and gave each a kiss on the cheek plus a front-row ticket to one of her concerts. She capped it off by giving a short impromptu concert with the help of her band, who had come along with her.

Although I appreciate the kindness, integrity and positive character shown, what riveted me was the seized positive impact the internet had. Two friends had a wish, and out of that wish a number of people (many of them strangers to each other, since the guys requested viewers to submit videos of their own) were inspired to impact the world in many positive ways, without any expectation of reward or reimbursement other than a hug.

I marvel at the difference in generations, and the mobilization potential of the millennial generation (those born in early 1980s to early 2000s). They are not fazed by odds against outstanding success, and they intuitively grasp the power inherent in large groups of people. If only there were a consistent method of motivating the masses to such heights on a regular basis!

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