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What would Homer make of social networking on the Internet?
What would Homer make of social networking on the Internet? Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The world, in particular the Middle East, is on fire. In Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, social unrest is leading to dramatic political change. Some experts predict that this is the beginning of a worldwide phenomenon where the young in particular — hopeless, unemployed, without future prospects — take on autocratic regimes and redefine their futures.
True, much remains unclear as these countries feel their way forward. You take the "auto" from autocracy and add in a "theo" and you get another Iran. Nevertheless, the call for change is sprouting everywhere, and it won't be quelled.
Could something like this have happened 10, even five years ago? Probably not. Behind the calls for change, uniting the discontent, stands the internet, especially the social network platforms Facebook and Twitter.
Across the world, the younger generation is redefining the way they communicate with each other. A text message takes precedence over a phone call, a tweet becomes the summary of an activity or the call for action, a Facebook page becomes a social hub, the uniting force for the values that keep groups together.
It reminds me a bit of how Homer's poetry defined, to a large extent, what it meant to be Greek in the 7th century BCE: myths unite people, and the power of social networking has now mythic force. To be young is to know how to connect via Facebook and Twitter, is to understand the new digital code of conduct and live by it.
Freedom is virtual, but it tastes real. And those who taste from it, who see what openness can do, who see the power of free thinking, who experience the possibility of voicing contrarian opinions without being killed or jailed, do not want to go back to having their wings clipped.
No one could have drawn a line from the first electronic computer, the Eniac in 1946, to the PC, to the Internet, to social networking. Once an idea takes body through technological implementation, it spreads in unpredictable ways, redefining the possible. May the hopes of these millions of people fighting for change be fulfilled in the not too distant future and without senseless killings. They too want to contribute to the creation of the new world order. And they should.