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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/17/11

The Internet Grows Up: Goodbye Messy Adolescence

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Author 57344
Message Arianna Huffington

The second pillar of the mature Internet is authenticity.

As users of the Web have become increasingly overwhelmed with information, and with competing messages, so too have they become increasingly sophisticated about sorting out the real from the fake, the genuine from the manufactured. The modern media landscape requires authenticity in order to make an impact.

In the new, grown-up Internet, the ordering principle is social, not hierarchical. It's person-to-person, not top-down. And social media turns out to be an incredible tool for recognizing, building and fostering authenticity. That's what it's about -- and this holds true not just for individual users, but for brands as well.

New media and social media tools have enabled people to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation -- millions worldwide now want in on the creative process and have much to contribute to it. And companies are eager to use that passion and connection. But it's a two-way street. Through social media, people tell companies who they are and what they value, and companies also tell people who they are and what their values are. And increasingly, companies that have both of those figured out have also figured out that doing good is good business.

Our third pillar is engagement... the grown-up Internet is all about engagement and community -- after all, we're social animals. The human desire for connectedness is universal. The Knight Foundation and Gallup recently conducted a survey to find out what emotionally attaches people to a community. The results were instructive -- and they were consistent, from people in big cities to those living in small towns. The study found that the key drivers of people's emotional attachment to where they live are: an area's physical beauty, opportunities for socializing and a community's openness to all people.

That's just as true online as off. People will eventually find a way to make any activity into a tool for engagement, connection and community, and the Internet is the most effective tool for community building the world has ever seen. In fact, this invention -- this thing we think of as a piece of technology or a series of machines -- is now at the stage where it's actually allowing us to tap into our full humanity.

So now that the Internet has arrived at adulthood, the next stage will be what we euphemistically call the Golden Years. That Internet won't have the drawbacks of our old age, but I'm hoping it will have its main benefit: wisdom.

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Arianna Huffington is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and author of thirteen books. She is also co-host of "Left, Right & Center," public radio's popular political roundtable program, as (more...)
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