Planned Communities of Thought

Social Networking websites such as Myspace and Facebook are phenomenons whose existence speaks volumes about the highly mobile and migratory American culture. It is now possible to maintain, online, virtual communities of people hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Friendships remain in tact, via status updates, shared photos, notes, packet-switching. Webs form from repeated reaching across the ether; whoever (or whatever) monitors the internet, and the owners of the sites (Fox Interactive Media, Rupert Murdoch) and now software programmers can, theoretically map out the links of an entire swath of society based on who is friends with whom. Online.

People list their likes, dislikes, sometimes their hopes and dreams, building up a profile to represent them in cyberspace. This information, which becomes owned by the parent companies of the sites, can be sold, traded, used, to market to the members. Or perhaps it just sits in a folder on a server somewhere, where all our information ends up: tax returns, grocery purchases via discount club cards, websites searched, library books checked out. The equivalent of a fat manilla number brimming with information, in a musty metal file cabinet. Except accessible at the click of a mouse.

The websites, like Facebook, provide something distinct to the modern internet user. A bulletin board, where one can post news stories, videos, songs one believes are relevant to the online community. A way to keep in contact with distant friends, relatives, loved ones.

The people of the United States are very mobile, and becoming more so. It is very common for children, once they have grown up, to leave the city or state of their birth, never living there again. The reasons we move are many: college, career opportunities, relationships, a more tolerant social environment for those who feel they do not fit in in the community of their childhood.

Migration of this type was a much more serious affair even 50 years ago, as travel was a great deal more expensive and less accessible. Right this minute, thousands airplanes crisscross the lower atmosphere, bringing people to faraway places, or back from them, home. And in the United States, for many of those whose ancestors migrated here (either as enslaved people, political or economic refugees, or economic opportunists) are, in fact, not rooted in the same way as people had been, 50 or 500 years ago.

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