Why I Love the Web

I love the web. Every time I sit down with or in front of a web-enabled device, I marvel at the possibilities that have just opened up before me. I realize, though, that not everyone grasps the transformative power of a world lain at your fingertips. Most recognize that it is sparking a revolution in the world as a whole, but few understand the web’s power to transform on a very personal and individual level. I see an opportunity for me to spell it out.

My usual process is this:

I usually begin my day with Twitter, catching up on the overnight nuggets sprinkled throughout the ether by the various wonderfully thought-provoking people I’ve chosen to follow. A friend recently remarked that she assumed that Twitter was just for sports and geek stuff, which, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Twitter is a tool. It is what you make it. It can be as dangerous in your hands as is a hammer in the hands of a toddler, or it can be as helpful as the same hammer in the hands of a master craftsman. It takes a bit of time to prune and trim your timeline to those who you find most engaging, but once you do, it’s a remarkably powerful medium. For instance, I tend to follow leaders in the fields I’m interested in, so my feed is filled with designers, writers, neuroscientists, psychologists, comedians, literary figures, Linux aficionados, freethinkers, and yes, sportscasters.

I sift through these things in the morning, favoriting tweets that seem of interest. Each of those favorited tweets is fed to a bookmarking service (in my case, both pinboard.in and kippt.com), which I can then peruse later, opening the links to find those that are actually worthy of reading. Those that make the grade are added to my Readability queue, and I read them from the comfort of my Kindle.

Quite often, a piece so entrances me that I star it in Readability. These are usually pieces I either write about or add to the Weekend Reading section I post here on Saturday mornings. Either way, I can go back to them later and re-read them. Usually, a theme or two emerges among a couple of articles, and oddly, it’s usually a theme that crosses genre or industry. I may see a correlation between the latest neuroscientific piece by David Eagleman and the How We Will Read segment on the Findings blog, a regular look at the future of reading. Frequently, I’ll use these starred articles to put together my thoughts on the divergent subject that emerges from within these various texts.

Now, let me share something that recently came up in a conversation with a fellow wonderer (context: we were discussing the freedom to write about a topic of your choosing versus a school setting, in which you’re given a subject to write about, and usually given the materials from which to gather your own conclusions): her argument was that working on assignments you wouldn’t normally seek out allows you to diversify your perspective, to see things from the point of view of someone whose work you wouldn’t normally stumble upon. To which I say this: this is precisely the beauty of the web.

The entire underlying philosophy of the web- indeed, the principle it was built on- is hyperlinks (or, simply, links). The ability to cite the work or writing of another individual within a given body of work is the glue that holds the web together, and the principle that gives it its enormous power. The result is this: when I browse these articles from great minds, the articles are inevitably sprinkled with links to the works of others, often those espousing the contending view of the point the author is trying to make. And those articles link to more works, and those to more, and ... well, you get the idea.

All this combines to create a very sharp sense of serendipity. Before long, a mountain of information and engrossing texts lay before you, and it becomes your job to sift through the information to find what is valuable enough to be worthy of your time.

All this can happen in a span of hours, if not minutes. Now, contrast this with the amount of time and effort it would take to collect that amount of information twenty years ago, or even the mere accessibility of it- how many scientific texts were available to us mere laymen before the web came along?

This is to mention nothing of the newest web principle- the social aspect. Imagine being able to actually connect with the people who write the things you so admire.

Now, would you like to learn to play the guitar? Learn another language? That’s possible. Want to collaborate on a screenplay with someone in Prague? You can do that. Your kids are hundreds of miles away? Grab your phone and pull up a videochat. At the moment, I’m learning design, honing my meager writing skills, learning another language, and studying a bit of acting. Often, I feed my mind with the fantastically powerful talks on TED.

One can (and probably will, later) go on and on building a list of the mind-boggling qualities of an interconnected world, but I’ll leave it at that. There are any number of reasons to fall in love with right here, right now- the age we live in. These are but a few of mine. What are yours?