The Informality of Internet Social Networks

Posted: November 21, 2010 in Uncategorized

Excerpt from Chapter 24. Information Technology
Sub-heading: The Informality of Internet Social Networks

Worldwide social networks are already linking people of all cultures and nations in personal, even intimate communication. This is an important step toward world peace because it is quickly breaking down the barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding among individuals worldwide. People are becoming personal friends with others in diverse nations and cultures by using a variety of free messaging, blogging and video-sharing websites. These grassroots, worldwide connections and communication lines among people are a phenomenal, irreversible step by the individual people of the world, toward world peace.

The real breakthrough with social networking is its informality. Its person-to-person communication is usually straight from the heart and undiplomatic, breaching even the most rigid cultural barriers. It is often interactive and usually kept at a friend-talk level, using sloppy grammar. That is its unashamed attraction, where you speak or write the way you feel – from friend to friend. This is a structural, growing framework that is already pouring some of the permanent foundations for world peace. We must now build on the technology and use it liberally to forge global peace-building friendships.

The social networks I use allow me to browse the notes my worldwide personal friends and acquaintances have posted, and keep track of what is happening in their lives. When I have time I write a few comments here and there just to keep in contact and let them know I am interested in them and in their lives. Many times notes and comments are left for me, and by their content I can see that my friends take an on-going interest in me and in the things happening in my life. This is precious, peace and esteem-building stuff.

In August 2009 one evening, while working late on this manuscript, I was captivated by the beauty of the full moon rising over our city skyline, so I quickly shared the phrase, ‘Beautiful full moon 2nite’ online. I was still working at three in the morning and felt like I was the only life on earth when my computer chimed and a response to my post came; ‘Here in CT too!’ It was from our dear friend Linda in Cape Town. That four-word response immediately connected us again, after having last seen each other twenty years earlier. It was also quite touching because it was so immediate, and I could picture Linda and the scene of Cape Town and Table Mountain, with the same full moon that I just saw, rising behind it. It was as if I was there for that instant.

Those four words in that context were far more precious than what any letter could have conveyed. But for an observer, this ‘Beautiful full moon 2nite’, ‘Here in CT too!’-conversation would just seem frivolous.

Even though such communication is usually sporadic, it is nevertheless very valuable. My network of online friends is a living, developing entity. It has character, temperament and mood and changes all the time. When I check through my friends’ posts and notes to see how they are doing, I can sometimes rejoice with a friend who has achieved something great, and other times I can offer instant comfort to someone not doing so well. That is infinitely better and more efficient than finding time to write and post snail-mail letters or even to write emails. It is much more immediate and right-there. We must make sure that our online contact does not displace any real contact.

Of course we maintain quality time together with friends living close by, doing things together, whenever we can. When we don’t have the time, or where friends live far away, we maintain on-line contact.

These networks can also used for destructive purposes, like cyber-bullying or other kinds of psychological abuse. Sometimes they are used to unite subversive organisation members and to find new recruits. We must be wary of this when making new friends online. It is easy enough to block someone out or report them if that happens.

But we are using this exciting medium to develop and maintain near and far friendships, and to gain a better understanding of worldwide humanity. Cross-cultural friendship is a key aspect of building world peace.

This is something we can all do right now. If we have internet access in-house or somewhere nearby, each one of us can build our own network of personal, worldwide friends and break down the barriers of ignorance and apathy. We then care about these friends and take a deeper interest in their lives, which usually becomes reciprocal.

In the late nineties my daughters had their own children’s websites and a worldwide group of pre-teen friends who regularly chatted with each other online. One such chat club, ‘Keypals Club International’ (109), had as their slogan the phrase, ‘One day WE will be the grown-ups who run the countries and because we were friends when we were little we won’t have any more wars … . @Kitty.’ That hit the nail on the head. That is the essence of world peace, and it came through a child over the internet! Our young generation knows what mankind needs and how to implement it. Furthermore, they are proficient at using the communication tools required to get the job done – all before they even become teenagers.

We must encourage and support that idealistic, visionary attitude in our children and their young friends, and help them keep that flame lit because as they journey through their teens they will be buffeted with more than enough cynicism and negativity to snuff it out. By the time they have reached adulthood only a handful of the most passionate idealists among them will still have an ember glowing.

With this book I am fanning those embers in confident hope that the flames will spring to life and ignite a worldwide passion to build world peace. Are you listening, kids? You’re it!

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