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Here Comes Everybody!

July 25, 2009

56FacebookAccountIn Clay Shirkey’s book Here Comes Everybody!   he talks “the power of organizing without organizations” and says “revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behaviours.”   One of the points that he, and other writers and thinkers, are making is that the kinds of technology available to us are changing our relationships.   

Often in our workshop people ask about the “safety”of online access for folks with disabilities.  One agency decided that none of the folks they support could be on facebook.    When we ask about using photos of folks we’ve had in our workshops, we’ll get referred to the privacy officer or the Executive Director.    

Parents will say to us “my son doesn’t know anyone – he only knows people that he talks to on the computer!”  

So, it’s a whole different world.   One of the advocates I respect most in our province said, off-handedly while we were talking about something else, “The first thing I look for in housing these days is good online access – these folks more than anyone need to have the ability to access their support networks.”    That took me by surprise.    I would have thought transportation, affordable rent, a neibhourhood where things could be walked to…  

it’s obvious, when we talk to young people, and even some not so young people, that they feel their online friends are *friends* – real friends.   The teen in our homes, should something happen that she wants to process – a celebration or a disaster – almost immediately seeks out MSN, Facebook and another site that she likes with music (and friends).   

My partner teaches a workshop on online safety for folks with disabilities that I love sitting in on.   He sometimes does this with a helper, who has a disability.   They ask “what are things we’re not supposed to do online?”   and the self-advocates make this great, inclusive list: meet people in private places, give our your phone number, tell private information.    They fill up a page, easily.  They’ve heard it all.    And then they say “how many people have done one or more of these thisgs?”  and everyone puts up their hand!   

So the important part is teaching safety skills that are realistic, and respecting that people who have online lifestyles have a different sense of who their friends are than we might.    Respecting differences.   I think the other important thing is to realize that our protectionist impulses could could keep the folks we care about from increasing their connections in the future…    It’s fascinating that Facebook is so concerned to connect one with others – with long lost peole you might have known, with friends of friends, with creating networks of possibility…  everything about Facebook is about connection.   If that’s our agenda, to support connection, how can we refuse to support folks to access something that is about that?

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