Woodstock to Social Media

    October 9, 2007

I was eleven years old and living on a horse farm when Woodstock was held the summer of 1969. My friends and I were surprisingly aware of world news and events because of the music from that time. We knew people had strong opinions because we could sing them.

There was this odd game we played back then, at the stable I worked for and trained at. Hot and sweaty, we’d run to the swimming pool, strip off our clothes (this was the 1960’s, remember), and sing the refrain from a song by Country Joe and the Fish song called The “Fish” Cheer / I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag . We’d line up along the side of the pool and scream-sing,

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die.

And then we’d all jump into the pool at once and make a gigantic splash.

Flower Powered Conversations

Woodstock was an eruption of heartfelt emotion, fortified by free flowing weed and the influence of the music and performers. If you had something to say, you leaned over to the person next to you, passed the pipe and shared what was on your mind. You could share your girlfriend too.

Woodstock was all about counter-culture. But that famous concert also signaled the end of the “Flower Power” movement too. By the time that mass of bodies showed up for a 3 day rock concert, people in political power had already stopped listening to their concerns. The Vietnam war didn’t end for another six years.

Many people from that time were so disillusioned they dropped out of society, with many dying from drug overdoses. Despite the most incredible music and the messages their songs brought to everyone’s attention, mass opinion didn’t stick. It clumped into separate balls and faded away with the tie dyed shirts.

The Naked Screaming Girl

Around that time, Life magazine came to our house on a weekly basis. Its pages were twice as large as any print magazine found today. One afternoon I picked up a copy with a cover that showed a naked screaming Vietnamese girl running in terror though the streets. I was so upset and distraught when I saw this picture but there was nobody to talk to about it.

In those days, we had no Internet. We had no technology in our classrooms. No video. No email and no IM.

When the Kent State killings occurred and Charles Manson murders were in the news, once again, I questioned my world. I did it silently. Sometimes my friends and I would talk, but it seemed as though they didn’t care as deeply as I did.

Not having an outlet, I became a runaway by the age of 13. It wasn’t that I was a bad kid, because I rarely got into trouble. It was because there was this world that made no sense whatsoever and nobody cared what I had to say or felt about it.

I didn’t know where my people were.

Your Social Site is Like a Mud Slide in the Rain

Visit any social network site and the first thing you find are topics to discuss. Niche sites like Hugg, Catalyze, Sphinn, and Razoo are communities drawn together by something that they have in common. Like Woodstock’s lure was the music, a social site promises camaraderie, unity, sharing and the chance to meet others like you.

At Woodstock, there were severe problems of course. For starters, they had no idea that many people would show up. They were unprepared to feed them, or put them up for the night. When the rains came, there was nothing to do but play in the mud and by doing that, they created a new way of socializing. You could whine about being wet and cold, or get naked, wasted and not worry.

Social sites are in constant flux, being the experiments in social and emotional communication that they are. Already I find signs of conflict and pain. Some couples find it difficult to be “Friends” in Facebook because they want some small piece of independence from one another. Individuals and companies come under public scrutiny by being written about in blogs, which are submitted to social network sites. It’s easy to disagree with someone behind the veil of the Internet. It’s easy to hurt friends. There is a risk of embarrassing yourself if you write something out of line or unpopular.

There is no leaning over and passing the bong, but rather, a leaning over to see what the next guy is doing so you can tattle on them somewhere on the Internet.

I was hoping social networking would allow people to talk but also provide a new way of listening to each other. As a young person in the 1960’s and 70’s, it always seemed as though nobody knew what was going on except for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or Joni Mitchell.

Today, people participate in the news. They read it online, vote on it, rate it, comment on stories and get the news sent to their mobile phones. We’ve had the Internet to use to change the world for over 10 years now.

They still pave Paradise and put up parking lots.