Winds of change like the metaverse and Web3 will undoubtedly take society in new directions, but an increasingly virtual world makes in-person connections all the more powerful.
When the internet took the world by storm, tech evangelists waxed poetic about creating a “global village” – a public forum transcending space and time boundaries. And in many ways, that prediction has come true. The internet forged indelible connections across previously impassable divides. Life has moved online in ways we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago, from news and entertainment to retail, dating, education, work, and more.
According to a recent study, humans spent a record-breaking 12.5 trillion hours online in 2022, with global internet penetration reaching around 62.5% of the world’s population (4.95 billion users).
Today, the average person spends just under a third of their day – about seven hours – online. That’s nearly half of our waking hours. Moreover, time on social media has jumped dramatically in the last decade, from an average of 90 minutes daily to 147, or around 2.5 hours.
The internet has become an inextricable part of the human experience – so much so that the United Nations now considers internet access a human right. During the pandemic, people retreated even more into their online worlds, deepening existing divides. With innovations like Web3 and the Metaverse on the horizon, many feel a mix of optimism and uncertainty about the impact that virtual domains will have on our real lives.
“It’s impossible to look to the future without acknowledging what an internet-enhanced world we’ve become,” says Armand Arton, Founder and President of Global Citizen Forum. “But there’s no virtual substitute for human interaction – no replacement for looking someone in the eye and having a meaningful conversation. We rely on offline experiences to bring us together to talk, connect, and ultimately, create change.”
Humans are social beings.
We benefit from environments where natural interactions can flourish and lead to communication, collaboration, and more meaningful relationships. Even seemingly small actions have led to significant changes in the past. In 2013, a simple handshake between then US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela’s funeral eventually led to the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. It ended one of the world’s highest-profile diplomatic feuds and over 50 years of bilateral tensions.
In the private sector, a friend of college dropout Steve Wozniak insisted on introducing the engineer to Steve Jobs in 1971, when the latter was still in high school. The in-person meeting led to the two men founding Apple Computer in 1976 – one of the world’s most valuable and revolutionary technology companies.
Through the power of real-world connection, we’ve established social values, driven change and enabled human society to evolve and thrive over thousands of years. Undoubtedly, our digital tools and virtual worlds will continue to become more sophisticated and immersive. Yet, offline spaces will remain essential to collaboration, connection and change.
“The power of human connection is one of the greatest advantages we possess and our strongest asset,” says Talimka Yordanova, CEO of the Global Citizen Forum. “With so many challenges ahead of us, from climate change to reaching gender parity, there’s tremendous value in meeting face-to-face, creating real connections with one another, and generating the transformative solutions we will need. This is the power of the Global Citizen Forum: we strive to give the world’s leading minds a place to converge and spark a human metamorphosis.”
Join us at Human Metamorphosis, this November 16-17, 2022 to ignite the conversation on the new era of global identity.