Yesterday afternoon I had one of those moments where I fell in love with the internet all over again. I was at work and watched as the second wave of Egypt's revolution began to spread. CNN was going back and forth between coverage from Tahir square and the George Zimmerman trial.
Part of my job is to take what is happening around the world — hence my title "buzz reporter" — and relate it to Michigan.
Through some searching, I found a University of Michigan student who was studying in Alexandria, about two and a half hours north of Cairo. I sent him a Facebook message (and paid the 17 cent priority inbox fee). Within minutes he responded. He was watching the news from a dorm room. As we chatted about the mood in Egypt, the head of the military announced the overthrow of Morsi's government. He was describing in real time what he was seeing there. As he was giving me the information, I was adding to the story that was ready to be published. Within 10 minutes we had a story up for our readers to read and hear the reaction of one of their fellow Michiganders.
As someone who grew up with the Internet and uses it for more aspects of my life than not, this was a profound moment. The ability to find someone and then talk to them as a world event unfolded was spectacular. I've had similar experiences before, including chatting with a local college student after the Japanese Tsunami, but each time it happens I am as stunned as the first time. What the internet provides is something I never want to take for granted. It is truly magical to be able to talk to just not talk to people around the world, but to meet them as well.
In college I studied Latin and Greek. I asked a professor once if a Roman or Greek was transported to the USA today, what would they be most impressed with. He said things like computers and the internet would no likely surprise them as much as the automobile or car. Romans and Greeks had knowledge and books, but what they didn't have was quick ways to travel. The fastest way to travel would be by horse on land or boat on sea. Distance and time were well defined. To be halfway around the world in less than a day would blow their minds.
In a lot of ways, the internet has done that with information. The ability to travel around the world in minutes through fiber optics and satellites is still very revolutionary today. And it's something I hope we never accept as the status quo.