TIME Magazine's choice of Person of the Year is widely awaited, and sometimes controversial. Remember Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979?
Occasionally the selection isn't a person at all. In 1988 it was the "Endangered Earth," and in 1982 it was the computer. Once in a while, it is an entire class of people, like 2003's selection of the "American Soldier."
But this year is truly encompassing. The magazine believes that we all are Person of the Year, with the annual pick going to - drum roll, please - "You."
The reason for the selection speaks both to the magazine's penchant for not always going with an expected or mainstream choice, and the fact that the pick is made not on the basis of popularity - in which case it would probably be a movie idol every year - but on impact. Perhaps it might better be named "Newsmaker of the Year."
So the selection of all of us for the accolade makes sense.
The choice was made, Time editors say, because of the empowerment of the individual thanks to the exponential growth of the Internet and sites like MySpace and YouTube, to the technology that allows news to be captured and disseminated as much by a patron in a comedy club with a cell phone as a news team from network television.
Today, as individuals we can say pretty much what we want and have a forum in which to say it and have people read or hear; we can write reviews of music or current events online; we can post information about ourselves, and about others. We truly are limited only by our imagination.
Time even put a mirror on the front of its Person of the Year edition because, as the magazine's editor said, "it literally reflects the idea that you, not us, are transforming the information age."
But while technology in the information age gives power to the people, are we really empowered? Or do we just have more information, without necessarily any means to filter it, or make sense of it?
The explosive growth of the Internet has not been without its negatives. There are investment and lottery scams, and sexual predators lurk on social networking sites. There's bad information or rumor posted as truth.
Time Magazine is right to call what is taking place a revolution, the transference of power from the hands of the few and the powerful to anyone with a computer or a camera phone.
This brings with it extraordinary opportunities for innovation, for free expression of ideas and opinions, for creativity, and growth. It also brings almost unlimited potential for totally wacky postings and a potentially unhealthy fascination with the errant ways of entertainers and other high-profile personalities.
But perhaps the content isn't as crucial to what is transforming our world as the fact that each of us has the capability to contribute and to communicate. With more than 130 million worldwide users of MySpace, and 100 million daily views of YouTube, an online community is being created, one log-on at a time.
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