|by Travis McSherley|
If there were any doubt that we are living in the "Me Generation," Time magazine has silenced it by awarding its Person of the Year distinction to "you." This doesn't seem to be a collective "you," however, but rather an individual one, directed toward each of the unique personalities that occupies his 15 megabytes of fame on YouTube or MySpace.
America loves its solitary geniuses -- its Einsteins, its Edisons, its Jobses -- but those lonely dreamers may have to learn to play with others. Car companies are running open design contests. Reuters is carrying blog postings alongside its regular news feed. Microsoft is working overtime to fend off user-created Linux. We're looking at an explosion of productivity and innovation, and it's just getting started, as millions of minds that would otherwise have drowned in obscurity get backhauled into the global intellectual economy.
Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?
The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you.
While it is incredibly tacky to give Time readers its annual, often abstract honor (complete with a Mylar mirror to reveal the winners), it might also be an astute bit of social commentary. In a decade where celebrity has become an increasingly fluid and fickle concept, where voyeurism has turned into a global hobby rather than a bizarre obsession, and where the front page has been eclipsed by the home page, "you" have indeed played a part in shaping the new culture.
The popularity of MySpace, YouTube, and similar outlets seems to be linked to humanity's deep desires for truth, respect, and relationship. Yet are these trends fueled by a longing for purpose, or merely by a longing for attention? Blogs, networking sites, and video sharing offer novel means for engaging in the search for truth. At the same time, the abuses of such media are well known, and are very often a product of selfishness, or fear of the new society's great taboo -- obscurity.
These venues provide great potential to expose both the depth of the human heart and the depth of human depravity. The challenge will be to convince all of "you" to seek the transcendent meaning that exists beyond yourself.