Courtesy of Pixabay
Courtesy of Pixabay

These past couple of years, and in particular, 2016, taught me that we Americans are lucky because we’re at a period in which most people in the U.S. now have some access to the internet, the most powerful idea-spreading tool ever created. If enough people recognize that this gives us a great opportunity to improve our country by spreading useful ideas, we could solve decades worth of problems in just a few years.

People who believe that 2016 was a terrible year probably think that way because, while they were dealing with their own daily struggles, they also had to hear about problems from all over the world, like Flint, Michigan’s water crisis, the attempted coup d’etat in Turkey and Syria’s civil war. It’s not necessarily that 2016 had more problems than any other year, it’s that we heard about other people’s problems more frequently because of the internet, which spreads ideas faster and farther than anything else in the world. If we constantly see news on the internet about the doom and gloom that happens around the world, then of course people are going to think that the world is getting worse, even if it isn’t.

It’s not necessarily that 2016 had more problems than any other year, it’s that we heard about other people’s problems more frequently because of the internet, which spreads ideas faster and farther than anything else in the world.

I predict that, because the internet continuously grows faster, more popular and more prevalent in our daily lives, 2017 will seem much, much worse than 2016, regardless of whether it actually is. This prediction will probably come true unless we start to realize the great opportunity we have. Because so many of us Americans have some access to the internet, we’re in a great position to rapidly spread information, ideas and innovations that can improve our communities all across the country. When we improve our communities, we improve America. When we improve America, we improve the world.

We need to look at things like opportunists. Consider this: CNN’s Twitter account currently has 30.8 million followers. If that account tweets out a news article, Twitter will spread it to those millions of followers. Those who read the article will probably share it with their friends on Twitter and other social media sites, who will share it with other friends, and so on. With one tweet, CNN will share an idea with 10’s of millions of people, even if not all those people use Twitter. And that’s without taking into account CNN’s Facebook page, which has over 25 million likes, as well as other news organizations that might share the same information on their own social media accounts which in turn, have millions of followers. The internet provides them a huge network for sharing ideas.

Currently, these idea sharing networks are primarily used to share news about our country’s problems, and less so to share solutions to those problems. Of course, many of our country’s problems are complex, and can’t be fixed easily. However, the more we use these idea sharing networks to spread solutions alongside the news of our problems, the faster we’ll be able to fix these problems. We Americans, especially the younger people who will be tomorrow’s leaders, need to take advantage of these idea sharing networks and build more of our own. If we can do this, we can rapidly share useful ideas and solutions that will improve our communities, country and world.

Look at President-elect Trump’s presidential campaign for an example of this in action. Considering how Trump continually dominated the headlines of dozens of news organizations every day up until (and following) the election, it’s not surprising that he won. By catching the media’s attention with his outrageous, larger-than-life celebrity persona, he got them to share his ideas and messages through their channels, websites and social media accounts to millions of people. It didn’t matter whether the coverage was positive or negative, because people who saw the articles shared them with others, whether they agreed or disagreed with Trump. Thus, Trump’s messages and ideas became popular and well-known. If you dislike Trump’s ideas and want to stand up against him, you should first understand his tactics. If you understand his tactics, you can use them against him. If he can use these networks to spread ideas far and wide, why can’t you?

2016 was one of my favorite years, and I guarantee it was better than most people believe. Every year has its share of problems and tragedies, but 2016 demonstrated the internet’s huge power to help bring about major, genuine change and spread ideas. Solving America’s problems is a gigantic task, and it won’t be easy. But, at no other time in history have we been so well-equipped to do this. Making 2017 a great year depends on us recognizing the opportunities that 2016 demonstrated to us.