From Afar

Because I can't do anything without automatic access to the Internets, I watch DVDs with my laptop at the ready. You never know when you're going to need to reference IMDB to figure out who is that familiar looking actor with the bit part.

Last night, as Bob and I were wrapping up our viewing of Ugly Betty, I got a tweet from Robert Scoble about an earthquake in China, which included a link to the USGS site. Scoble noted that USGS didn't show the quake yet. By the time I clicked on the link, mere seconds later, the initial USGS data was up. Minutes later, the magnitude was edited by the USGS.(They continued to make adjustments to the initial earthquake's magnitude for hours after the quake, finally settling on 7.9.)

This was just the beginning of hours of tweets from Twitter users (tweeps) across the globe. By the time I was nodding off, I'd chatted with students and teachers in Chengdu, offered them reassurance that the aftershocks would eventually subside, and posted the link for them to check the aftershocks' magnitudes as they were happening.

It was a surreal experience, not necessarily because Twitter was the first place the news hit the masses, but because there was an instant connection to the people experiencing something a world away from my bedroom in California. There was a sense of humanity that's missing from mainstream news. In the typical news report, even a human interest piece, leaves us, as readers or viewers, in a passive role. We receive the story, but do not interact with it. Thanks to social networking and the efficacy of Twitter, we can interact with the world as events unfold. We are no longer just observers. That is the essential appeal of social networking...no longer being the mushrooms fed the sh*t in the dark. It feels good to make connections. Humans crave connection.

The voice of the world is changing. It's reshaping itself to maintain our need to be active participants. We're using new tools to achieve age-old needs. I heart that about us.