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In the Flesh and Online, Two Honest Quests for Social Good, Day 125

September 23, 2010

Ground Zero on September 12

Sitting on a crowded subway on my way home from a sublime meeting with Sarah Small at her apartment, I feel a strangely beautiful connection to the people around me, in a way I haven’t quite felt since traveling through the city on September 12, 2001. I remember the faces of the New Yorkers taking public transportation or walking along the street who, despite the horrible tragedy, connected with each other on a profound level in knowing glances and even in prayer. Countless citizens of the world volunteered, donated, and came together in a spirit of unity for the greater good without any hope of profit for themselves.

Today, the black-capped, flannel and Fila-wearing cyclist managing his bike, iPod, and MacBook next to me feels at this moment less an awkward and unwise stranger I might judge than my brother, connected somehow by the fact that we all come from stardust. Not a response to national catastrophe, this present epiphany comes from my time spent connecting with Sarah through stories told, artistic visions revealed, and music shared. Oh, how an hour with an inspired and naturally vulnerable person transforms my view of the world, tweaks and calms my inner monologue, and increases my love, kindness, and empathy toward others!

Do I sound like too much of a hippie? True, I will perform nude on Saturday, and our first rehearsal occurs tonight. I have to bring a robe. While I will refrain from revealing too much of Sarah’s vision for this Tableau Vivant, I can assure you it will indeed be alive. Exploring the most human and commonly profound experiences in life, this will doubtless bring together the performers and audience in a shared energy I have likely never felt to such a degree. Promoting an awareness of us all together in humanity brings us further from hate and war and closer to patience, acceptance, and each other. If that makes me a hippie, bring it on!

For those less organically inclined, today Mashable offers Social Good Day. No, I didn’t make a mistake; rather, one of the largest blogs and the creators of Social Media Day have teamed up with the 92nd Street Y this U.N. Week to bring attention to the possibilities of using social media to create positive change in society. In fact, had I noticed sooner, I as a blogger could have had access to briefings from the U.N. Summit (previously far more closed) all week through a digital media lounge established at the 92nd Street Y. Monday, we could have attended their Social Good Summit with celebrities and industry leaders discussing new media’s potential role in addressing the world’s challenges.

Why care about the impact of social media on the world? As I blog, tweet, post status updates, and check in on Foursquare, some of my friends have asked, “What’s the point?” We all still know someone without a Facebook profile, either because they need to enforce their own break from cyber-stalking an ex or because they tire of seeing everyone’s business. In Edward Norton‘s speech from Monday’s summit (a complete recap of videos from the Monday are available here at Mashable.com), he starts by describing his initial adverse reaction to sites like Facebook and the overwhelmingly personal nature of most friends’ updates and posts. Discussing his company Crowdrise and how they enable individuals to evolve into effective grassroots fundraisers for charities, he uses the average social media user’s “impulse for personal narrative,” to give anyone a platform to show others and herself how one looks at herself “as an agent of change in the world.”

In short, go to the website. You’ll find a fun and addictive interface designed to help people volunteer, raise money for favorite foundations, and exchange ideas with other members looking to support something worthwhile. In the video, Edward Norton tells a story about a woman in the United States and a woman from England who found each other through Crowdrise supporting similar causes.  Presently the two, once strangers, travel to Africa to work together with funds raised from their online platforms for change.

Crowdrise isn’t the only organization with this concept, and many more new companies have started to pave the way for us to use social media as a tool for more than keeping up with friends or self-improvement. Still, we have so much work to do in the world! Mashable and (RED) first initiated Social Good Day to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals, a challenging but crucial set of priorities developed by the U.N. to raise the quality of life for a large percentage of the world’s population suffering from extreme poverty, disease, poor education, gender inequalities, and many other woes.

Our world’s governments can only do so much to empower change; surprisingly, each of us can help. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to prompt our compassion and sense of humanity. Start today on Social Good Day. Offer someone your seat on the subway and look around to see the individuals around you as you travel from place to place. Watch some of the videos from Mashable’s summit or read the news in English from another country across the world. Volunteer, raise money for your favorite charities, or just support one. A little effort from many people can help so much. If you’re the more inventive type or someone who likes to debate ways to create your own version of change, leave work a few minutes early today. Find a Mashable Social Good Day meetup near you and discuss with other passionate people how we can all make a difference. I hope to hear all about it.

Happy Social Good Day!

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