Every school holiday my parents either made me stay with a French family or a British family. Whenever my schools or our town took part in an exchange and needed a bed for foreign guests, we opened our doors. My parents enabled me – in all dimensions – to travel, be it to study a year at a Spanish university or work as a volunteer at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. The key motivator of my parents – made against the backdrop of post-war Germany – was seemingly simple but incredibly powerful: Friendships stop you from starting wars.
Or in the current lingo: engagement creates understanding and appreciation of different perspectives. This foundation creates a desire to create better realities for more than just oneself or one’s unit. It opens eyes, hearts & minds. It enriches lives. It removes the cloak of ignorance and spreads enlightenment and reason.
Social media has similar attributes. It enables me to connect with people around the world, to discover their blogs and read and interpret them by myself, without the additional filter of journalists or politicians. I can seek more clarifications. I can talk with people (Skype or traditional phones) and build even stronger ties. And then meet them in person at events such as #TruLondon.
Social Media is a window to the world. Enabling you to see, understand and potentially desire the lives in other parts of this shrinking globe. These windows existed previously as well; for example, people in East Germany tuned their TV sets to receive West Germany television, several keeping their old, out dated sets, as the new ones blocked – by government order – West German channels. And seeing the difference in living standards and freedom was one key driver to overthrow the East German government. Freedom seeking individuals always find ways around government imposed sanction and information flow.
But TV has one way, social media has a second way – it’s not only what comes in, but also what goes out: Social Media acts as a multiplier, as a real time news service that helps us understand what’s happening in other countries. Just think about #Tunisia and #Egypt. I also believe this real time information stream stops the traditional propaganda machines form working seamlessly and stops outright, big scale violence. We never know, but I believe that the Holocaust could have never happened on such a scale in the networked world we currently live in.
The most powerful part of social media, however, is the people to people part of it; the raw, unfiltered impressions, the spreading of information. We are all diplomats. We are all participants. We are all players. Our tweets and our blogs are not bound by borders and territories. We are all part of a global world and we are all part of globalisation. We all have the right and the responsibility to get involved everywhere, to take an interest beyond our own backyard, to connect, to exchange, to share, to appreciate, to demand, to understand the impact of our words and actions and everybody else’s, to affect each other positively and to make the world a better place little by little. Let’s do it… Hasta la victoria siempre!
Painting by Clay Vajgrt