The Internet has been an equalizer in the same way that the printing press was back in the 15th century. It’s impossible to write history as it happens, though – one must wait and observe first.
Lately, it occurs to me that some big social events have happened on the Internet that teach us what it’s about: Cecil the Lion, Alison Parker’s and Adam Ward’s murders were captured on video, and Aylan Kurdi, a 3 year old Syrian boy had his image published across the Internet. The journey here is nearly 600 years long.
In addition to that, every human in the Internet world has the ability to publish on the same platform as the giants of media. Not every voice is listened to, but every voice has a chance. Freedom of speech is nearly complete, and nearly ubiquitous. There are people who are blocked by governments or social situations from participating in this great conversation, but that number continues to shrink.
Now that we have this worldwide conversation over tea, what will we talk about? The answer is everything. Every subject is discussed, shared, commented on, and argued over. Conversations are good things. Conversations can lead to diplomacy.
Now that everyone has a voice, we have a new conversation to have. Over the summer of 2015, it has begun. There have been three major Internet events where the global conversation has turned on itself, and became about how we have the conversations.
“Cecil the Lion” was killed and a man was bullied, shamed, shunned and put out of business as a result. Vigilante justice punished the man. This was a lesson in being careful with our words, now that our words are able to reach so far.
Two journalists were murdered on video and people made their friends watch the footage. People saw the video auto-play in their news feeds. This was a lesson in being courteous to our friends who might not want this.
Syrian refugees fled their homeland and pictures of the dead showed up for everyone. Pictures of dead children, strangers. This was a lesson in respect for the privacy of others, and once again courtesy to our friends.
The ability to publish has been accomplished. The Great Conversation is happening. We can all participate socially whenever we want. Now that we have made the conversation so great, we need to choose our words more carefully than ever before.
In this Great Conversation over tea, what will you talk about?