The title and subject of this post seem particularly apropos considering its place in Blawgconomics history; it is no less than the 400th offering since the beginning of blawg. In the nearly year and a half during which we have been in operation, we have been lucky enough to have guest posts from some brilliant colleagues and share some insights with our readers, hopefully in both cases making some kind of impact, however small, on the broader world. And to the extent that we have been able to bring an insight to a curious reader, provide a nugget of what would might otherwise seem to be innocuous information to individuals in repressive regimes who would not typically have access to it, or even just provoke a thought or two in a visitor, we are fully indebted to the wonders of the internet age. For without technology, it is highly unlikely that we would be able to do this at all, and it is a virtual certainty that we wouldn't have the footprint which we do.
True, perhaps we could have taken on the mantle of the pamphleteers of old, the types of individuals who were able to spark popular uprisings through the pen and the press in the face of tyranny. Maybe we could have written for a newspaper. Maybe we could have started a group with a name like Thinkers in a Fancy Parlor, reviving the salon culture of pre-Revolutionary France. All of those things are of course possible. However, there are very practical hurdles in each scenario which have been not only jumped by technology, but absolutely decimated by it. The printing costs of the pamphleteer; the life choices and career path one needs to emphatically embrace, eschewing others, to be a journalist; the seeming impracticability (not to mention unpalatability) of getting enough like-minded and intelligent people together in fancy enough dress in a stuffy enough setting complete with a secretary to immortalize with pen every thought of the group in the salon scenario; all are alleviated by the populist powers of the blogging world.
Of course blogging hasn't been the only transformative innovation of the information age. Another, and one which gets even more press, has been the advent of the social network; MySpace, Linked-In and the ubiquitous Facebook are just a few of many examples. The benefits of these innovations are numerous and tangible. Networking, rekindling old friendships, remaining in touch over long distances, promoting causes and plain old time wasting are among them. There are also downsides; Facebook is being increasingly cited as a factor in individuals cheating on their significant others. Poor decisions not to protect photographic evidence of even poorer judgement have led to firings and rejection letters. And, in the mind of no less an authority than the Pope, social networks can lead to alienation of individuals. In his words, 'It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.'
Regardless of creed (or lack thereof), and whether or not one regards the words of the Pope, or any individual, to be ones to live by, there is some truth to his statement. There is also truth to what would be the broader implication of his thoughts; it is important, even (or perhaps particularly) in a digital age, to make sure relationships don't suffer for the convenience of electronic alternatives to actual contact. This is as true for romantic relationships as it is for those of a (hopefully) more economically-focused variety. Therefore, even while celebrating the technology which has allowed your humble author and his friends to share their thoughts with you 400 times as of today, the old (with no small, but brilliant irony, telephone company) marketing slogan still holds true...sometimes it is important to reach out and touch someone.