Proximity Prospers

After reading my classmate, Chelsea’s, post on whether the Internet is making us one big, happy family — more connected, more globally aware —  or causing us to be more segmented into our own smaller communities; I couldn’t get the question out of my head.

Right now I can see both in my own life. I use WhatsApp to chat with my host brother and sister from last summer who live in Salta, Argentina. I received a “Happy Birthday” from Polish, Italian and Brazilian friends on Facebook.  And I receive news from different corners of the world online (although not as much as I should).

At the same time, I feel much more connected online with the people and events closest to what I’m familiar with. My social media accounts (especially Instagram and Snapchat) are filled with what my friends, the majority of whom are nearby, are doing and thinking. My Twitter timeline, although I try to branch out with who I follow, has a heavy UNC influence, which I can particularly see during a situation that brings Tar Heels together.

In the last month I’ve noticed this more than ever — with the death of the legendary Dean Smith, the tragic killing of three students that left us in shock and with questions, and the height of basketball season — I felt so consumed by news and forms of communication that focused on my own community.

Maybe, as Chelsea suggests, that’s because that’s what I’m interested in. I don’t “feel compelled” to seek news from other parts of the world because it doesn’t directly affect me as much. Proximity. (I guess News Writing taught me a little something here & there.)

Whether or not the fact that people are most interested in and connected to what is closest and most relevant to their own lives leads to the most healthy and informed we can be is another question. I’d argue that it doesn’t. But it does feel like human nature.

As, like I talk about in my latest post, communication (along with news) permeates our daily lives more and more, I think we will become more and more segmented into local groups.

We won’t have to go to a kind of global meeting place because instead of everyone “meeting” in one giant network of ideas, the network will go where we are. The Internet will be on our wrists and in front of our eyes, embedded into our streets, homes and cities’ infrastructures.

I hope that people find it in themselves to reach out to what’s happening elsewhere. To find people’s views that are from very different places meaningful to them. Maybe we will find a way to force ourselves to come into contact with foreign events and people as we move forward.

But for now, I see convenience. I see walking down the street being such an intense experience that the individual’s need for global connectedness will lessen. I see proximity.

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