A story

This story keeps roaming through my brain.  We are living in such strange times.  I spent last night with a bunch of bankers and spoke at length with a guy who works at Fannie Mae.  Conversation was fascinating on many levels.  There is a part of me that every time I sit down with someone new, particularly someone in my age range, I wonder…do they get it?  Do they understand that the world has completely changed? 

There is something in this story that keeps drawing me back.  In many ways, this story, although 10 years old, is exactly where we are today in the world of social networking, creating niche businesses, and connecting with like individuals in the flat world that we live in.

Henry Bar Levav is someone I got to know quite well during the Internet craze of the 90's.  He was the brains behind an Internet consulting company called Oven.  I really adored Henry.  He told me a story years ago that I have told over and over again that in many ways defines the world we live in. 

He had ( I assume had because so many years have passed ) a niece that lived in Pittsburgh.  In his eyes, she was a beautiful, smart, wonderful young Jewish girl who couldn't connect or relate to any of her peers in Pittsburgh.  Yet, she was a huge They Might Be Giants fan. 

She would come home, get on line, and go to the They Might Be Giants website and hang out in the chat rooms.  She found many people in those rooms who she could relate to.  It was a huge awakening.  Other kids in High Schools around the country ( perhaps around the globe ) who found themselves in the same frustrated predicament as herself.  Through these people she began to realize that once she left Pittsburgh and went to college she would find other people, like herself, and her world would open up.  She was not alone, she was not strange or weird but she was just living somewhere where there was not a lot of other people like herself.  This website and community changed her life.

Fast forward 10 years, we see how social networking has transformed and connected the world.  If you want to find other people in the world who only eat deep fried chocolate covered pickles  (are there those people ), you can find them.  If you have a product to sell, think Etsy, that rocks your existence, you can find a market of people out there that feel the exact same.  What social networking has done, or what the web has done, it create the ability to reach our your hand to someone else in the world who has the same interests or perhaps the interest in buying your product, etc. 

This connection makes for niche businesses as well as tiny like communities on the web that can be passionate about something and perhaps choose to make a difference in the world or even just make oneself feel connected and complete.  That is alone is very powerful. 

Damn, I love the Internet. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Frank Lynch

    I think it was in Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind (Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The World) where he describes a hypothetical scenario 10 years ago of the chief librarian of the world’s greatest library and young girl in a remote village in Africa both being asked last year’s GNP for Argentina. The probability is that the librarian would discover the correct answer quickest.Now fast forward that same scenario 10 years but this time the girl has a high speed internet connection and we have a much leveller playing field.The internet is amazing for the connections and communities it creates, as you say. It is also amazing for the way it has commoditized information and made it freely accessible to everyone.

  2. marshal sandler

    I rarely have no comment but Mr. Lynch has said it all-onward up ward with wordsmiths

  3. Geoff

    For me the internet is my childhood dreams come true and to be part of the computer age from the outset, we used slide rules and mechanical calculators when I started, is just so awesome, and to think we are just at the beginning of the internet age 🙂

  4. Frank Lynch

    I also think about authority and authenticity. When that girl searches for Argentina’s GNP she will most likely a) google it and b) take one of the top three links to get her answer. And it would most likely be a Wikipedia entry. How can she trust that source? How can that girl in Pittsburgh be assured when she hangs out in that They Might Be Giants chartroom that she is indeed interacting with likeminded people and is not interacting with someone with disingenuous intent. ?One thing that the hypothetical Liberian has to their advantage is that when they do discover the answer they are very confident to the authority and the accuracy of their answer.When these challenges are resolved, and I am confident they will, then the guarded love I also have for the Internet will fall and the world will have truly completely changed.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You should truly stop being so guarded. Wikipedia is constantly beingchecked for facts internally. Online communities are growing daily. Beingcautious is fine but it is no different of a skill than being cautious ofwalking down the streets of NYC.

  5. Chris Ceppi

    I also heart the internet. I think I love it because it can open up the world the same way your family and friends open up the world. In every day life, our friends and family and teachers are amazing sources for the things which enrich our lives. Think of your favorite restaurants, music, movies, books, career moves, investments, recipes, exercise routine, diet, heath regimen, artist, etc etc etc. Odds are they were recommended to you by someone (or someone guided your taste making in a way that lead you to your own discoveries). We mostly take this process of sourcing for granted. We don’t generally step back and appreciate how we connected with the the things that make our lives fun, worthwhile, meaningful.The internet takes this beautiful sourcing process – which has authenticity, resonance, connectedness, discovery, fun and love baked right into it – and opens it up beyond any scale previously possible. For that, I love the internet. And as was mentioned this is just the beginning.I also think there is a larger point to be made that as the word transitions into a more somber downscaled economy – the things we love about the internet end up providing a healthy, quality of life counterbalance to diminishing material returns. But I am too lazy right now to dig into that thought.Thanks Joanne.

  6. Tanya Monteiro

    Wow, I moved to Portugal from NYC 1.5 years ago. I also happen to come from South Africa and have decided to find a new home, it’s not my turn their anymore. Tthe internet has been a huge part of my life since I started carving out my own place in the world and now I’m spending 1 month in the US meeting like minded, thriving people that I would never have met otherwise!!!! Yay to many many aspects of this huge change we are LIVING and LOVING! Thanks to you for keeping the thoughts stimulating and interesting!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Big move. Huge change. Just read a book about someone who made the movefrom NYC to Barcelona and is still there. It is top on my reading list.Bringing Home the Birkin. You might enjoy it.

      1. Tanya Monteiro

        Thank you, I’ll take a look! An easy read that you might enjoy is “Almost French”, an Aussie moves to Paris. You and the way you choose to live your life is a huge inspiration to me, Thank you:)

  7. Shelley

    A good story. I agree. Both of my sons and I experienced similar situations in the past living where we did and finding a new “community” online that we could connect with and gave us hope for the future. I think the socializing going on online leads to more social connections in “real life”. It has to bring hope and opportunity to a lot of isolated people.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Couldn’t agree more.

  8. Caryn

    I love this post. I think about this on a daily basis. It is a “game changer” and there are so many positive ways it can be used- very exciting it is the ulitmate democracy.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks caryn