In the minutes, hours and days following the tragic earthquake in Haiti, we saw the realtime, social internet at its best. In Haiti, survivors posted images of the damage and shared news of deaths and rescues to concerned loved ones abroad. Around the world, we were able to get news, offer support and come together as a very global community almost instantly. Technology played a major role in the early reponse the the quake as citizens used the social web to share an sms code with which one could instantly donate ten dollars to the relief effort. That effort broke through the $21 million mark after only a few days.
But being internet-based, there’s something very different about this front stoop. Along with your friends, family and neighbors, George Clooney, CNN, blogs, and the New York Times are on that stoop. So are a few million people you’ve never met or even seen. It’s everywhere, all the time. It almost seems odd to hold an organized telethon at a specific time. The telethon has been going on across every part of your television, laptop and cell phone since the moment the shaking stopped.
The line between your real community and a broader, virtual one has been blurred. Anderson Cooper is talking to you in the same stream as your closest friends. This new stream can feel comfortable and even natural during a big event when the feeling of community provides countless benefits. But Anderson is going to be on that stoop along with you and your real network of acquaintances well beyond this event. And knowing where the issues and events that are really connected to you stop and where the more public and and formerly distant issues start will become increasingly complex.