It doesn’t even need to be stated that the web has utterly transformed every part of the world it has touched. From e-commerce to stock trading, from crowdfunding to advertising, from texting to political campaigns, from memes to insurgencies, none of us can escape its deep effects. But one remarkable interpretation of the “global village” is the significance of it literally—how the web has changed how we connect.
The internet allows people with any interest to find one another across long distances, develop deep communities, and organize. Unfortunately, this also allows people with fringe, unhinged ideologies to organize together, sometimes to tragic results (such as the rise of American mass/school shootings, many of which have been inspired by extremist internet groups).
Though these possibilities and outcomes do exist, the ability for communities to organize across traditional boundaries, in my eyes, is of enormous benefit to the world. Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and Slack are all havens of these groups for every possible topic. The modern LGBTQ+ movement, for example, has depended on the internet, where anyone can flock—often under some cover of anonymity—to learn about identities and meet others in similar situations.
I’ve long thought it was extremely unlikely one’s best friends would just so happen to live in the same time and place. With the internet, we no longer have to be constrained so significantly by these barriers. While “pen pals” have existed in the past, we are—especially in just the past few years, I think—beginning to see a new movement in (moreso in young) people’s social circles. A few years ago, it was only mildly socially acceptable to have “internet friends,” but it’s increasingly common, powered by platforms like Instagram and FaceTime.
Personally, thoughrout high school I was heavily involved in the Hack Club Slack, an online chat room & community of ~5,000 high school coders & coding club/event organizers around the world. The friends & relationships I made through that community were the majority of my friends in high school, & they continue to stay with me wherever in the world I physically am, because we’ve always been in different states/countries. We learn from, inspire, and teach one another, sharing our coding projects, organizing events together, and so much more. I would be a significantly different person if not for the Hack Club Slack, though I only discovered it only in 2017.
The internet has enormous effects in so many more places, but the transformation of human-to-human relationships is one of the most personally interesting. Web communities as well as private communication services facilitate types of specialization and connection not possible in the traditional physical world. Though we are far from replacing the energy of physical meetups and one-on-one time in physical space, the “global village” of the web continues to radically grow the possibilities of human connection.