This article was originally published on www.catholica.com.au.
In many ways
the internet is turning into the revolution for our post-WWII generations
that the birth of the motor car, the aeroplane and radio communications
was for our parents' and grandparents' generations. Amanda McKenna almost
lives in cyerbspace these days, as does her husband, the editor of Catholica,
Brian Coyne. In separate ways a large part of their work today is focused
on finding ways in which the net might be used in service of communicating
the gospel message of Jesus and building mutually supportive communities.
In this commentary, Milly relates two recent experiences that she has
Two events in the past week have presented themselves 'right under my
nose' and caused me to put finger to key ("pen to paper" has
become a reference to a former time!) to speak once again about the power
– for good or ill – of the advent of the internet.
The first happened in a discussion community I belong to on the 'net.
This discussion community boasts more than 11,000 members from around
the world and the topics of posts range from asparagus and the joys of
raising pre-teens to the politics of the Iraqi war and the worries of
army wives of deployed husbands and fathers. In other words, there is
no 'agenda', so much as a sense of community.
One of the women there posted about how people she had met online have
helped her through traumas in her life and how grateful she was for the
sense of belonging and acceptance from others she found there.
The other event occurred as my husband I and drove into the city. We
listened to the BBC World News and they reported on a story in China where,
due to access of people to the internet, a major slave-labour racket has
been broken and a large number of people, many of whom were children,
were freed from the most horrendous conditions...all due to public alertness
and pressure. That's people power! (You can read the report at: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6761217.stm)
A "global" family…
More and more I am hearing of things like this that are being exposed
to the light — and justice being done because people are getting
online and talking with one another; forming relationships and sharing
their lives with one another. All-of-a-sudden ordinary parents, searching
for their missing children, are able to get online and get the word out
– with pictures – and bypass the obstacles to appeal to other
ordinary people just like themselves.
And once again I am struck by how we are living through the birth-pangs
of a new awareness that we truly are a global family. At no other time
in history have we — the ordinary people of the planet — been
able to communicate and form relationships with others across the globe
regardless of things like race, religion (or lack thereof) and national
A new song project…
And, being a songwriter, I started to get ideas for a new song talking
about this very thing. With this in mind, I posted on the discussion board
asking for people to share with me their own insights about their experiences
online — and I have been literally gobsmacked by the responses I've
been receiving ever since.
Some have talked about their own sense of isolation or of being misunderstood
by the people they know in "3D" (in their personal lives offline)
and of finding people they can connect with online. They've talked about
how they have learned so much from others; lessons they've been able to
incorporate into their own lives to make lasting changes. Others have
talked about births, deaths, trials and joys all shared with friends they
have made online - real friendships in real lives right across the globe.
We all hear about the dangers of 'meeting people online' — and the
internet is certainly a 'place' where one can find representations of
the whole gamut of human experience. We hear so much about things that
go wrong, but rarely do we focus on those instances when things go better
The 'events' I referred to above are just two examples of how something
as powerful as the internet can be used for good. And as we become more
and more accustomed to this relatively new technology, we are rightly
becoming more concerned about how we relate to one another online.
We are living in 'interesting times' as the Chinese saying goes, and
have before us an opportunity to set the tone in our online encounters
that may have ramifications for many years to come. What legacy we leave
for future generations from this time of great change and innovation in
history is entirely up to us.