Poised at the edge of my personal Technology Independence Day holiday, which I described a few weeks ago in this post, I find myself musing on this week’s theme “Independence” from a slightly different perspective.
Effective first thing this morning, I turned off my email and slipped off all my usual digital perches for the weekend. My brain, however, still sizzled at Internet speed. I headed for downtown Sonoma, relying on the fresh air laced with star jasmine for more rapid vacation decompression. Meandering through the dappled sunlight in the Town Square, I mused on times when people’s connections with each other occurred largely in places like this – a central spot in town where everyone gathered for all occasions.
Today our digital world offers the most vast town square ever possible. People whose paths would otherwise never cross, now encounter each other on-line, engage in conversation, become friends, do business, fight and break-up. Thing is, in spite of the great opportunity to cross borders and boundaries, most people do precisely on line what they do in the carbon-based world. They find the people with whom they identify and agree, and they gather.
I’m not suggesting this is entirely a bad thing. After all, humans need tribes, and it’s certainly not shocking that people seek out what they know. It’s comforting. At the same time, thanks to technology we have a remarkable opportunity to bust open old paradigms like so many perfectly ripe watermelons at a July 4th BBQ, and in doing so engender real change and evolution of our society.
If I sound a bit rah rah, you’re right. I get this way every year around July 4th. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA – an area that takes its Independence Day celebration very seriously. I worked at a radio station the station ID of which played to the tune of fife and drums. It’s the time when I think about the country in which I live, being proud of being in place where I have rights and privileges that others … oh, wait … I don’t really have all those, do I?
Sarcastic commentary aside, the truth is that a substantial asset in the struggle for full and complete LGBT equal rights is technology. Today’s world is an inextricably connected one. This being the case, the way in which one utilizes the technologies makes a difference – a big difference.
So on this 234th birthday of the US, as people belly up to the barbecue and cast their eyes upwards to enjoy fireworks, think about taking some independence from your usual on-line fare – seek out others whose views may oppose yours, and take the chance that in engaging them, maybe, just maybe your independence will rub off, and change someone’s perspective just a little bit.