Imagine if you left your $300 phone in a taxi in New York, what is the chance that you will get it back? In this day and age, there is a good chance. Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, recounts this story in chapter one on how finding the “stolen” phone took a mass group of people, but it was nothing the Web couldn’t accomplish. The phone led to an arrest of the sixteen year old girl (and phone kidnapper), Sasha. Actually, it wasn’t the phone that caused the arrest; it was the people at the other end of the phone. People who came together who viewed the lost cell phone’s MySpace page, which led to the image of the culprit and pressured the police to press charges. This is one of the many anecdotes Shirky tells to describe the changing world we live in.

Shirky goes through different social networking outlets and details their history, which was very beneficial. This history reminded me it is OK to be in the minority when developing an idea. Many successful corporations began small, but now are large. People often didn’t want to help, but now people are going through intense interviews to work at the same companies.

Additionally, he did an excellent job recounting stories of these groups and individuals; they had a personal perspective and touch to them. According to Shirky, these companies have taken off because of their desire to create an organization, where small groups work together form within the framework of a bigger and better idea (p. 278-279). They created new outlets for large groups of people (p. 220). I liked the quote he used by Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.” Nobody likes being in a large, crowded group; rather, they like to feel that they belong to a small, close-knit group and are experiencing and learning something new. And this is what social networks are accomplishing for the society we live in.

Are we on the verge of a new generation called Alpha Generation? I don’t think so. The idea of social networks is not a new idea, but I feel it is more than ever sealing the generation gap. From class lessons and Shirky’s lessons, I have come to the realization we have longed to be in groups. “Society is not just the product of its individual members; it is also the product of its constituent groups…we have always relied on group effort for survival” (p.16). No generation has gone about their life wishing they were alone in the universe. It is natural for us humans to want to be social and interact. In the words of Shirky, Michaenglo couldn’t have painted the Sistine Chapel alone or could have Edison invented his inventions without having a couple of lab assistants (p. 16). In the words of Robert Putnam, a 20th century political scientist and professor at Harvard, “Success of the United States as a nation has had to do with its ability to generate social capital, that mysterious but critical set of characteristics of functioning communities.”

The web is creating a new eco-system (p. 60). Therefore, this technology is forming ways for us to better connect with those like-minded, related individuals and making two-way communication easy (p.87). This communication is desire of every generation. Additionally, it allows us to work together, a specific desire of the Baby Boomers. Therefore, “now that group-forming has gone from hard to ridiculously easy, we are seeing an explosion of experiments with new groups and new kinds of groups” (p.54) and are (and I think Shirky would agree with me) sealing the generation gap for mankind.

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