The Global Campfire

(Originally posted on Stories of Learning in New Mexico. Photo Credit: Jenelle Ball, Unsplash)

The Internet has changed our world. It’s given a voice to the voiceless and helped ideas spread as never before, changing our society with the ability to connect with others around the world. It’s also given us FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It’s catered to our baser nature, while giving us access to more knowledge than a cadre of wise men could dream during the Enlightenment.

I remember the first time I was exposed to the World Wide Web, during its earliest days. When I first saw the Internet, gazing at the handful of pages through the fuzzy CRT glow of a workstation, this visual world was wrapped in a blanket of mystery. At the click of a mouse it revealed a hundred different cultures, it exposed me to ideas that I had only dreamed about growing up in a small town in southern New Mexico.

It fed my desire to learn more about the world around me. Places I had only read about in magazines or books from the library. An entire world was suddenly at my fingertips. I hoped that there were millions more out there, like me, curious and filled with wonder, I wondered if they were, as I was, almost overwhelmed with the idea of where to start first.

I imagined the possibilities to come from the Internet. I looked at it like an electronic version of the Great Library of Alexandria, the fabled repository of knowledge during ancient times. It was Alexandria v. 2.0.

As the Internet matured, and continued to grow, we saw the development of tools like blogging, online video, podcasting and other social networks that gave people around the world the same ability to share their stories and ideas with others. Stories that otherwise might never be told. It’s the individual faces of homelessness that Mark Horvath shared on Invisible People, or families fighting cancer punctuated by the chorus of millions of marginalized voices around the world. Stories of people standing up, and saying, “I matter. I care, and here’s why.”

We all have a story to share. Everyone can have their time at the center of the global campfire, sharing their voice.

I’m lucky enough to be an adjunct instructor in the University of New Mexico Communication and Journalism Department, teaching social media. I try to encourage my students to find that voice for themselves.

I do get unnerved at times when I get online in the morning and I see an Internet that caters to the lowest common denominator. One where people are unwilling to be moved out of their comfort zone and ask “is there something more out there? What do I want to know at the end of today that I didn’t know before?”

When I can’t handle another political post, or Upworthy headline, I remember that there are others online, striving to learn more about the world, and tell the stories of the people in it.

And what happens next will amaze you.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.