Thursday, May 9, 2013

Who do you know?

Who do you know?:
Let's define "know" as... you're connected with them, in real life, by email or through a direct relationship online.
It might be someone in a different state, religious, atheist, straight, gay, in a developing country, a lawyer, a politician, struggling to pay the bills, ill, recovered, in recovery, a dedicated athlete, a computer programmer, angry at the system, an insider, an inventor, from a very different political stance, a pilot, unemployed, a millionaire, an inventor, a tax cheat, a gun owner, a rabble rowser or an adult without a driver's license.
Can you see them? Understand them? Ask them about what it's like to be them? Would you miss them if they were gone?
Sixty years ago, TV news changed everything, because it introduced us to ideas and places outside of our personal experience. Today, like it or not, despite the fact that we continue to segregate the places we choose to live by politics and race, the online social network is anti-gerrymandered. Connect with enough people and you can't help but bump into something outside your worldview.
The question is: now that we know these people, will we listen to them in an effort to understand? Tom Friedman famously wrote that there's never been a war between two nations that had McDonald's franchises in them. I wonder if we're going to develop a new sense of mass, one where it's harder than ever to demonize a group that contains your friends, even if they're merely online friends. Or, are we going to get better at hating people we know, at de-personalizing our experiences...
When they're no longer faceless strangers, is it more difficult to hate them?