By bits, I mean digital bits and the words you are about to read are an exploration and a free flow of ideas about sharing things online. Here is a list of some things people share online: photos, recipes, videos, articles, opinions, commentary, personal experiences, events, advice, business, achievements, charity. Initially, I was going to try to categorize all this with a type of sliding scale between surface level sharing and deep (i.e. more meaningful) level sharing. I realized, though, that what seems like a surface level of sharing to one person might be deep and meaningful to another person. Furthermore, a large number of surface level posts might very well add up to something far more meaningful than a few deep level posts. Categorizing everything shared online is not a simple task. However, in trying to understand online sharing I think it is important to examine it from two interrelated perspectives: the perspectives of the individual and the many.
Individuals sharing online can influence the things others see, hear, eat and think about. Being able to influence people on a large scale is an extraordinary power that until recently was held mostly by governments and large media conglomerates. Now, every individual with access to the internet has this power available to them. The level of influence can very depending on an individual's intention but even the most benign sharing, a music video on you-tube for example, has an effect of influence. Essentially, when individuals share online, it connects them to other individuals. As those connections spread, the influence becomes amplified.
The aggregate of many people sharing takes things a step further so that the (somewhat intangible) things being shared become realities reflected back to us in the "real" world. When many people begin to share an idea, that idea becomes a part of the collective consciousness; the idea becomes rooted in our everyday actions, it influences public policy and becomes the basis for our social (and political, and economic) systems. I think it is important to note that some of the ideas shared online will be more evolved, more whole, and more inclusive than others. I believe that these ideas have a greater weight of influence even if they are not initially shared by the majority of people. The more evolved ideas eventually seep into the consciousness of many. For example, the rights of a woman to vote, something we now take for granted, were at one time supported by only a minority of people. Today, the internet has the power to spread more evolved ideas into the collective consciousness at a much higher rate than ever before. It might even be argued that we are now witnessing our own collective evolution occur before our very eyes.
Many wisdom traditions through out the ages have explored the paradoxical concept that the one and the many are the same thing. The word "individual" is itself somewhat a paradox in that the meaning refers to one person as separate from many but the root of the word means undivided. Certain people (Jaron Lanier for example) have argued that the "hive mind" mentality of the internet will be the end of individual creativity. I disagree; when the "yin and yang" (i.e. paradoxical) relationship between the individual and the many is recognized, both the human collective and the individuals within it can be honoured together.
Sharing online is a very powerful tool for expressing ourselves. When that expression has the right intention behind it, it can, as it is embraced and amplified by the many, change the world for the better. This exploration on sharing has left me with a few new questions: What are the barriers (both internally and externally) to my own public self expression online? What, exactly, is it I wish to express and through what mediums should I express it? And, ultimately, in what ways do I want the world to change?