We are truly a global community

[Re-post from August 4, 2009]

I am sitting here in wonder at the amazing power that the Internet has to bring people together from around the world. Just now, I had a Facebook chat with my nephews’ grandmother who lives in Colombia and doesn’t speak English.

She had posted on her Facebook profile some photos of my six-year-old nephews on their first day of school and I commented on how cute they looked. She initiated a chat with me on Facebook in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish so I hurriedly went to Google’s online translator tool and copied in what she was writing. I then used it to translate my English to Spanish and pasted that into the chat window for her to read.

As easy as that, we were communicating a half a world away, in real time, without having to know the other person’s language (granted, I’m sure some of the translations were imperfect, but they were good enough for our casual chat).

Imagine even 10 years ago how difficult that would have been. Google was barely a year old, Facebook didn’t exist, and I most likely would never have had any direct communication with her. Now, with a few clicks of the mouse, we can stay updated in each other’s lives, share photos and memories, and communicate regardless of distance or language. What a wonderful experience!

To those who lament that the Internet, and technology in general, has made us less social and more isolated, I say, hardly!

The advent of social networking and sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr, and their rapid adoption by people of all ages across the globe, shows that technology can act as bridge, not a barrier.

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