These days, between MySpace, Facebook and easy-to-use blogging software, it seems everyone is making use of the Internet to connect with friends, create an online diary and even make history.
Time magazine's decision to name YOU as its person of the year wasn't the first watershed moment of the Information Age -- and it most certainly won't be the last.
Today, unlike any other time in history, you have the tools at your disposal to have a dramatic influence on any number of things in your life -- from public policy in Albany and Washington to everyday life at Ithaca College.
Think I'm kidding?
Last year in Washington, D.C., a group of conservative and liberal bloggers, most of whom had never met, rallied around legislation dealing with government transparency. They attempted to propel it from oblivion to President George W. Bush's desk. And the White House, recognizing the significance of the moment, invited a dozen bloggers to the bill signing.
That moment was a turning point in Washington. Two U.S. senators now employ seasoned bloggers in their offices, and White House spokesman Tony Snow routinely talks to bloggers the same way he talks to traditional reporters. Just last week at a bloggers' meeting I host at The Heritage Foundation, the White House sent a representative to address the group.
According to a recent study conducted by T. Neil Sroka, a student at George Washington University, upward of 90 percent of Capitol Hill offices pay attention to blogs, and 64 percent of congressional staffers say blogs are more useful than mainstream media for gauging political problems. Two of the most popular blogs -- Daily Kos on the left and RedState on the right -- welcome any user to post, meaning you could be changing minds almost instantly.
As many strides as bloggers are making in the public policy world, they're having an even greater impact on campaigns and elections. Consider that in 2006, liberal bloggers raised more than $17 million for Democratic candidates. Conservatives didn't do nearly as well, but the nearly $300,000 they sent to Republicans was money they otherwise may not have seen. Some of the most high-profile campaigns employed bloggers, turning what used to be a pajama-clad hobby into a well-paying job.
For me, I look at blogging as a way to have an effect on public policy. But for you, it could simply be improving life at Ithaca College, whether that means strengthening the curriculum or getting better services for your tuition dollars. That's what's great about blogging -- no matter what you care about, chances are you can build a coalition to bring about change. And with tools like Technorati, an Internet site that tracks 63.2 million blogs, and Google Blog Search, it's never been easier to find people with common interests.
Ithaca College already has its own champions of new media, starting with Dianne Lynch, dean of the Park School of Communications. She maintains a blog called All Things Park, which chronicles student achievements and goings-on in the school. And The Ithacan, mirroring a trend taking place for many national newspapers, has decided to make bloggers a staple of its Web site.
Blogging may not be for everyone, and those who become bloggers need to be mindful of the fact that what they write is permanent. But I strongly believe that with the tools available to us, the possibilities are endless.
Robert Bluey is director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in The Ithacan