Around the New Year the media inevitably attempts to sum up the previous 12 months in a few words or with a Top 10 list; 2014 will be no different. Yahoo, one of America’s most popular Internet portals, had this list of number 10 to number 1 stories based on search results: Obamacare, domestic violence, Islamic State, sentencing retrial of Jodi Arias, Ferguson, Malaysia Airlines, leaked celebrity photos, midterm elections, the death of Robin Williams, and the Ebola epidemic.
That list is as good as any, but so would almost any other list based on what’s interesting or important to you. The point is that the Top 10 can be either universal or very personal and it’s always time dependent. You may care most about the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, attempts by the Islamic State to form a Caliphate, the U.S. relationship with Iran, or none of the above. As for me, I have no interest in what “the beautiful people” are doing, who they are doing it with, or doing it to.
Additionally, history cares nothing for the calendar and the importance of any event is often hidden for decades; humans, in general, are not good at seeing the distant future or even the impacts of current events on the near future. Today’s top story may be tomorrow’s ho-hum.
However, there are things that change how the world operates and those things are important even if we do not yet know where they will lead. My vote for 2014’s world-changing event is that “thanks” to options for personal communications – typically some type of smartphone – everything is everywhere worldwide and at the same time.
It was in 2013 that the U.N. reported 6 billion people, 85 percent of the world’s population, had nearby access to some type of wireless communication, that is a larger percentage than had access to sanitary toilet facilities. Although the numbers were already there in 2013 it did not feel as if everyone was participating until this year. In 2014 one could see the impact everywhere even though it happened years ago.
Now everything being everywhere is routine; not the wonderment of the modern age, but the compelling connection to the world. It’s certainly not all for the better. According to the IACP Center for Social Media, each minute of the day, 243,055 photos are uploaded to Facebook; how many are worth saving? No one knows. The time wasted being social is unfathomable, but it obviously fills some need or we would not participate.
Opportunities to ridicule the situation abound, tragic events seem to have more people snapping pictures than aiding the victims – in many ways we have also become a world full of observers looking for the few who remain doers.
So there you have my description of 2014 in one word and applying to everything; Ubiquitous – adjective: present, appearing, or found everywhere.