In retrospect, what we just left was the decade of the rapid, revolutionizing rise of the "Me-on-Web" generation. That's why it's called YouTube and MySpace. There's a reason why Apple banked on a line of I-centered (iPod, iPhone, iTunes, soon-to-be iSlate or iTablet or i-whatchamacallit) digital lifestyle products. It was a tech-influenced decade steeped in "me-you-I" -- increasingly, inevitably, sometimes selfishly self-centered. You over-shared. You drowned on the flood information. You faced choices -- why read just one newspaper when I can rely on various blogs and online news sources instead? You took control of our media diet, not just what you read, but whom you shared it with. It was all about you.
The dawn of this new decade, however, will be shaped by the "We-on-Web" generation. It's not just about you, but about all of us: how our growing collective consciousness (or "collective awareness," as Al Gore calls it) will evolve and further cement its hold.
Is it gonna be just about you, or about all of us?
Will all our tweeting, Digging, Facebooking, YouTubing and Wikipediaing lead to a greater good -- like, say, helping promote democracy in countries such as Iran? Will it lead to greater understanding of complex issues that can't fit in often too simplistic 30-second television soundbites? Will it lead to increased compassion among people of different and opposing backgrounds? In late October, to little fanfare, Facebook and the Persuasive Technology Lab launched Peace on Facebook, a groundbreaking page enabling people from various backgrounds and geographies to connect and exchange ideas -- Israelis and Palestinians, American conservatives and liberals. Some say the Internet has led to increased polarization and partisanship in politics. But it's not the Internet, it's the people using the Internet. All the Internet is doing, after all, is reflect and amplify human behavior.
In the past few days, leading up to the start of 2010, there's a "trending" theme about taming and downright killing your Web 2.0 self. The singer John Mayer, one of the most popular celebrities on Twitter, asked his 2.8 million followers to undergo a "digital cleansing": no tweeting, no texting, no Facebooking, no visiting gossip sites, even, for seven full days. Mashable, which covers the in's-and-out's of the social Web, headlined the week-long pledge with "John Mayer Wants You To Make Like a Luddite in 2010." As I learned from the industry watch-blog TechCrunch, a Web site called Suicide Machine grossly ups the ante: Why not do away with your social networking presence altogether? It's no joke. A noose is prominently displayed on the site, and a light-hearted three-and-a-half minute video explaining the process beings with, "Hi there, I used to be just like you -- always online, chatting, poking. Things were okay. But I was really missing something." The site's introduction reads:
Tired of your Social Network?
Liberate your newbie friends with a Web2.0 suicide! This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web2.0 alterego. The machine is just a metaphor for the website which moddr_ is hosting; the belly of the beast where the web2.0 suicide scripts are maintained. Our service currently runs with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn! Commit NOW!
But it's not so much taming or killing our social networking presence but changing it, making it less about "I" and "me" and more about "We" and "us" -- more about forming connections outside of ourselves and our comfort zones. Here in America, the social Web is largely viewed as merely a communications tool built for over-sharing and self-aggrandizing. But as of April 2009, only about a fourth of the world's population is online. In places like Africa, the Internet is and can be a mobilizing, organizing and revolutionizing force. The irrevocable mark of the social Web, its foremost revolutionary ethos, is that no one exist alone. Online, the Web is flat and we are witnesses to each other.
And the beginning of our "We-On-Web" decade is not just about you -- your individual self -- but how you fit in a larger, growing "collective consciousness."
Here's a video explaining Suicide Machine: