When the Twin Towers came down on 9/11, we talked with each other, one-to-one, over the Internet. Today, thanks to the rise of social networks, we share the news of disasters around the world with everyone in our circles. Our pain is becoming flat.
What do I mean by that? When Thomas Friedman wrote The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, he described how global telecommunications and the Internet flattened international competition and turned globalization from an economic buzz word to a reality. In the 21st century’s flat world even the most local of businesses are connected with other businesses around the world and must co-operate and compete with them.
I see another side of that concept in the rise of social networks like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Just as we now share information and compete with each other in milliseconds over the Internet, we now share our pain and our happiness around the world in mere moments.
On September 11th, on the Internet we came together as individually. We spoke to the people who were closest and dearest to us. We also talked to those strangers, our neighbors. The people we’d nod at as we left for work in the morning.
Today, thanks to social networks, those neighbors are co-workers from half-way around the world. They’re high-school friends we haven’t seen in decades and who’ve moved thousands of miles away from where we grew up together. Our neighborhood has become the world.