(Due to requests, I’ve switched to writing in English for the time being, unless writing about something only interesting to Norwegians. We’ll see how it goes!)
Internet, capital I. I love the Internet, it deserves a very capital I. The following is my declaration of love and passion.
I love the internet. I love that I can sit on the bus to work, turn my phone into a WiFi hotspot and go online on my computer and buy a kitchen from Ikea. I did that once. I love that I can go to the beach, and if so inclined I can use my cellphone to access our webshop and edit the contents of it. I did that this summer. I love the Internet.
I’ve heard that my generation (born in 1981) is the first one they call digital natives. I vaguely remember going online for the first time in the 8th or 9th grade. There was an old-fashioned modem hooked up in the livingroom, making that screeching sound, and I was only allowed 1 hour of surfing a day. Because we were charged by the minute. And nobody could use the phone. But when I started Secondary School (age 16 in Norway) – I met people I already knew from the Internet but had not yet met in person. That’s a profound change. And from my first love I have lots of «loveletters» by email. Our entire relationship is written down. It’s printed out onto paper and no longer online, but still. Remember this WAS the 90’s.
I’ve always liked the Internet, but something happened around 2007 that totally changed the game and turned like into love. That was when Facebook really got its breakthrough in Norway. Now, Facebook itself is not that exciting, but what it represents is. For the first time it was completely natural to go by full name and picture and not some bizarre nick. This lead to connecting with the people you already knew offline – an extended social circle. Earlier social networks were always operated under a nick, where you flirted, showed of your talents, or a very edited version of yourself. With Facebook, we stretched our true selves onto the Internet. We moved our lives online. When that transformation was done – I am me, online too – there was no way back.
Social media to me represents something entirely unique. I’d even say it gives me renewed faith in humanity. On Twitter, I get amazing feedback from complete strangers; answers, help, and a desire to put yourself out there for others. People don’t think «what’s in it for me» – they ask «what can I do for you. (Yes, i know I sound naive. But I mean it!)
On Twitter I’ve gathered around 1600 people, who follow me. Far from all of them see all my tweets of course, but still it makes up quite a few people for every tweet. And that is not counting re-tweets. Being able to access 1600 minds at once – that is unique in the history of the world. Forget that feeling of not quite remembering a word or a newsclipping or a story, or even a song. Somebody ALWAYS knows what you’re thinking. I was once in a car heading to the mountains, and we were talking about music videos we remembered from our childhood / teens. And you know, that video that was quite scary, and I think it was in a hospital, two rather scary ladies, and I think there was a dying man, and didn’t death show up? And I want to say that it was Annie Lennox, but I know it wasn’t? You know that song? Somebody on twitter did – from that rambling explanation. @LarsLaad – took two minutes to figure out that it was indeed Shakespeare’s Sister with «Stay» . (Watch the video. Super-freaky.)
But the real, fundamental changes of society that comes from the social Internet, is what I love most of all. In 2009 a man named Arfan Bhatti, was arrested by the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) (who are in charge of national security in Norway). This was quite a big deal, as his case had been in the media a lot. And at the time of his arrest, they put out a tweet at the same time as the press release, reading «A short while ago, Arfan Bhatti was arrested by the PST.» And then some anybody wrote back, asking simply «Why?»And 30 seconds later the PST responded, to this anybody, «Due to violation of his parole conditions». Now in what other context could you ever imagine being able to ask the heads of national security questions about why they’ve done something? And actually receiving a reply? That is a radical change of society. Power structures are flatter, anybody can reach everybody else, anyone can ask questions, and everyone can see if you do not answer them
The number of world events I’ve witnessed first and foremost through twitter are becoming quite a few. I first read about Michael Jacksons death on twitter. It was all over social media, long before any established media dared report it as true. And of course, the riots on Tahrir Square in Egypt. I followed the events minute by minute, from the inside of the square – through a list made up of journalists and regular Egyptians who were inside the square, tweeting to the outside world. That is quite special. Once you get events THAT close, it is impossible not to care. I think this will eventually change the world.
Two words stand at the center of this change; Transparency and Visibility. You can no longer get away with treating people badly. Whether you are Hosni Mubarak, or United Airlines. I doubt they appreciate this kind of REAL consumer power. I’m guessing it takes them quite a while to recover from the damage this video had to their brand.
What impresses me the most, is the level of engagement and will to do good that people show on the internet. Take the wonderful story of young Harry, who although sick with cancer himself, decided to sell bracelets to raise money for cancer research. Normally, he would have sold, say 100, 200 of these to the closest family. But he (or his parents) made a website, and posted it to a few friends, and the website spread, and the media got involved – and he raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for this cause. This would not have been possible without the Internet.
There are so many great ways to make a difference in the world through the Internet. There is a website called Kiva.org, where I can lend money directly to some small project somewhere, for someone who wants to say, buy a cow to feed her village. She takes my 20$, buys the cow, sells her milk and then pays me back. This would not have been possible without the Internet.
There is a website called Kickstarter. If you have an idea, a project, an innovation or just a silly thought you want to realise and need funding – you can put your idea out there. It can be anything, from a funny-looking mobile organ to something as lofty a goal as trying to solve the problem of how to find out if you can trust information on the Internet (I love this one – go fund it!). And people who believe in your idea sponsor you. When your idea succeeds, you pay them back. And thus we all help fund innovation! This would not have been possible without the Internet.
And I love how the Internet, and especially twitter, acutally makes me a better person. I am MORE social – because I go out and meet people I do not already know. Or I see on twitter that the neighbours are barbequing in the backyard, and go join them. A common myth is that being social online displaces real life social interaction. I don’t believe that to be true. I think the exact oposite is true – the more engaged I am online, the more amazing people I meet in real life. And twitter makes me take a distanced, ironic stance to anything that happens, it forces me to look at things from the outside, from the bright side. Tony H. of Zappos explained this extremely well when he described being locked out on a hotel balcony for 45 mins, but having his phone with him. He says «Twitter forces me to find the humour in the situation». I could not agree more.
The most frustrating thing when your Internet connection fails, is in fact not being able to tweet about it.
Internet, I❤ you.