According to the Facebook statistic page, there are currently more than 500 million active Facebook users. Simply by posting a picture and writing a bio, people create their viral “self,” and interact with “friends” behind a computerized screen through the tips of our fingers. They relay messages through comments, status updates, and chat box messages, totaling over 700 billion minutes per month.
Some argue that’s a lot of time spent without actual human contact, maybe too much time. They worry these actions could lead to a generation of isolation, where individuals who no longer value face-to-face communication; where individuals are no longer “connected” to each other.
I, however, beg to differ.
Although we may be interacting increasingly on an online platform, that doesn’t have to mean we are headed towards isolation. It goes without saying that sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger, give people the opportunity to instantly communicate with loved ones, and keep in touch with the high school buddies they thought they’d never see again. But it goes further than that.
As a generation, we now have the ability to instantly communicate with someone on the other side of the world. If time travel is the quickest way from point A to point B, then social networking users may be bending time and space without even knowing it. Add in Google Translate, and this opens up an endless amount of possibilities in terms of learning about other cultures and expanding our self-consciousness. Breaking down language barriers is unarguably a step towards global connectedness.
Social networking sites also give us the ability to let family members and loved ones know we are “OK” in the case of an emergency, especially if unreliable phone lines and methods of transportation aren’t accessible. In fact, in the case of the most recent Japan Tsunami, social networking is reported to have saved many lives.
The 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the Fukushima power plant left thousands of people dead and many more missing. The disaster demolished buildings and rail lines, left telephone networks congested, and caused electrical black outs, cutting off communication between those who needed it the most.
However, by utilizing web-based sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Mixi, people all around the world were able to get instant updates on the statuses of friends and family, as well as donate to those in need. Those involved in relief efforts even took to Twitter and posted information about emergency phone lines for non-Japanese speakers to tsunami alerts, altered train schedules and lists of shelters for those left homeless.
As technology advances, we will continue to realize the Internet’s potential as a way to connect humans and put power back in their hands.
This is especially the case with the new buyer and seller market-oriented website Zaarly. With Zaarly, users are able to find what they want in their area, say their price, and get it. There’s no waiting in line and no managers trying to sell you what you don’t need. Users utilize a Twilio powered phone number to connect instantly, get what they ask for, and get on with their day. It’s that easy.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst at Current Analysis, agrees. We are connected:
“While there are so many technologies at this time that isolate us from our fellow beings, social networking tools have shown their ability once again to unify us as human beings, and to bring out what is most altruistic and empathetic in our natures.”