I have a lot to be thankful for during this holiday season. Just watching the evening news for five minutes gives me the perspective that my worst days or problems pale in comparison to the struggles and pain of so many people in this world. Yet in that same news, I am also reminded that there is hope. Alongside the stories of atrocities, there are stories of triumph; stories of people, businesses and countries changing course and making a difference.
Being a glass half-full person, I find myseslf feeling optimistic about the possibilities. Why? Because I know we have the capacity and tools to make more and more of these positive changes. We have the newtork. And the network can help everyone and everything it connects maximize their potential.
It is bringing people together in ways never before possible, reinvigorating businesses, connecting people to their civic responsibilities, enhancing our general understanding of the world we live in, and creating opportunity and change on a global scale. It is able to create connections and develop communities that span all ages, races, beliefs and experiences.
These communities can be engaged in meaningful ways to make a real difference in this world. Using the connective tissue of the network we can do amazing things, from <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5GryIDl0qY">cleaning up a country</a>, to <a href="http://www.kiva.org">supporting the economic prospects </a> of fledgling entrepreneurs, to tackling <a href="http://www.webmd.com/">health</a>, <a href="http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/research/rice/overview.do">hunger</a> and <a href="http://laptop.org/en/">educational</a> issues, to generally <a href="http://www.globalteer.org/projects/">inspiring people </a>to <a href="http://www.oprah.com/entity/angelnetwork">take an interest and make a difference</a>.
"Activate" - it's a term I first associated with the network when I heard it during a panel at the <a href="http://www.californiawomen.org/">Women's Conference </a> on "Changing the world through the Web," but I think it captures the potential of the network. When leveraged to its best advantage the network can be used to connect people and resources to issues or problems that can be collectively tackled and hopefully solved.
The worry is that in this connected world, it is increasingly easy to retreat to the virtual world and not connect back to the physical one. There is a danger that we could rely too heavily on the network for our social interactions. When this happens, it is easy to be interested in everything but invested in nothing and the network's ability to create real change is diminished. People, places and causes must be personal if it is to lead to real world action; so the power lies in the network's ability to enhance life in the physical world, not replace it.
The network can help us reduce consumtion and improve efficiencies, strengthen our relationships with friends and family, increase our personal and professional development and opportunities, and help our fellow man whether they live next door or on the next continent. When it does these things, the possibilities are limitless and for that I am thankful.