HONG KONG, China -- Boston seems so far away -- another world -- a city transformed by an act of sheer evil. This morning in Hong Kong I opened my iPod, logged onto Facebook and learned about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.
Friends from afar, scattered around various continents, were already commenting or posting virtual vigils. In retrospect, the irony is that I didn't learn about the breaking news via the New York Times or CNN, but through Facebook.
To be sure, tragedy seems closer than ever in the age of the Internet. The world is not only flat, but it had been shrunk and shrink wrapped because of social media including Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Reality, so near and dear, would not have been so accessible if I were across the border in Mainland China. I remember a recent visit to Guangzhou where I spent nearly a half an hour watching the lollypop spool as I attempted to log into Google. In some ways spending a week in China was like living in a bubble -- isolated from the joys and tragedies of the outside world.
I am often reminded by friends in Mainland China that I am blessed with information access -- if not overflow -- here. In Hong Kong the wireless is always on with inexpensive plans. For the public wireless is available even free of charge thanks to the government in public spaces. I have Facebook, Twitter, Google access to the New York Times, CNN and all of the media that is considered off limits to my friends over the border.
Thanks to the Internet I am able to access and connect with my homeland -- celebrate holidays virtually, follow marriages, births and deaths, listen to speeches made by President Obama.
And now thanks to technology and access I could watch the footage of the bombings in Boston. I could post my condolences on my Facebook page, I could "like" the comments, prayers and virtual vigils that my fellow Americans were engaged in. I could exhale when reading posts from friends who attended the marathon saying that they were safe. And at the end of the day I too could feel overwhelmed by the tragedy a half a world away and several continents away. It wasn't that easy to disconnect, even if this was one time that I wanted to.