Hugh coined this bon mot today and I think he's on to something. Not that anyone set out to design a thing which would achieve this for us…and of course, it also does other stuff, good and bad. No, the internet and all the associated technologies have turned out to be so powerful because they unleash our social souls….our incredible desire and need to live our lives in the company of others, to be social creatures.
That's not just hanging out with others like us on social media platforms, or lurking fanboy/girl-like around our fave blogs or twitterers or even listening in that rather spooky way that we've all got used to doing but more fundamentally, being connected to each other enables us to be the social creature we were made to be: to navigate the big world of people and things through other people's reactions to it, to seek safety and protection and solace from other people. To be human, in other words.
Yes, it does sometimes lead to what the Daily Mail fears as "orchestrated campaigns" against the status quo ( although as we all know the organising is rather more often of the self- type); yes, it can lead to highly volatile patterns of excitement and rapid turnover of popularity. And the sight of us behaving this way together isn't always very pretty. Or edifying. Or something our Enlightenment forefathers might be enamoured of.
But the important thing – and the really revolutionary stuff at play here – is that this kind of technology destroys many of the cultural, economic and politic brakes on our fundamentally social nature.
That is the point of the internet, as Hugh puts it so trenchantly.