Contemporary history is characterized by the shifting of thought; the development of new ideals; the spread of modern philosophy. At the core of these changing social paradigms are the people: society as a whole, coalescent through the pursuit of freedom in both their social and political lives. And so, the world, in recent times, has been a stage for revolution. First, the economy was swayed in favor of the middle class. The world underwent widespread industrialization, the course of which continues to this day in some nations. At the turn of the twentieth century, we witnessed a technological revolution: radio, television, airplanes, and automobiles. More recently, we observed a scientific revolution: quantum physics and the space age.
These revolutions are chronicled in our history books. We refer back to them in our studies of current revolutions such as the Arab Spring. But there is a revolution going on that few actually know about: the social media revolution. We are living in an age of rapid social restructuring, an age where the society has begun adapting to the presence of computers, the internet, and social media. In many ways, the social media revolution has traits of all three: computers are becoming economically feasible rather than luxuries; technological marvels like powerful microprocessors, flexible displays, and pocket-sized computers have surfaced; and the applications of these in the scientific world are endless.
But few people are aware of this revolution, and even fewer are contributing to it. I do my part as a web developer and activist by incorporating technology into the curriculum at my school. All the rest are lab rats in this corporate experiment of technological supremacy. While that is the unfortunate reality in most cases, a few companies have legitimate human improvement in mind. One such company is Google, who is hosting their annual developers’ conference, Google I/O, this week. The opening keynote took place on Wednesday, and I followed along with a livestream of the event. I had all these thoughts going through my head, about activism and social media and the internet, and I was reminded of Allen Yekikian.
Each generation has those few people who truly make a difference, who inspire and educate others to do the same, and who leave an eternal footprint on history. Allen was certainly one of those people. I did not know him personally but I know, as others surely do, about his contributions to the Armenian community. We lost Allen and his wife Sosé Thomassian last week to a tragic car accident in Armenia. Allen was a friend and colleague to many, a son to two loving parents, and a husband and eternal companion to a caring wife. But besides those, he was a true visionary and a committed social media activist.
Allen had a professed love for Google and social media in general. He pioneered the social media and online presence for Asbarez during his time with the local Armenian newspaper. He was a deeply involved member of the AYF and, in turn, spearheaded the social media movement within the organization. He was certainly an idol for me, and though I mourn his death, I more so regret not knowing him better and working with him on these truly essential projects. Where his legacy now takes foot is where I wish to dedicate my life’s work: encouraging social change through the powerful tools that Facebook, Twitter, Google, and every other social network can offer.
Allen was one of the few who was deeply cognizant about the social media revolution. But perhaps more important is that he was one of the far fewer who contributed to it. I value all the work that he did, but all I can think about is how his life, his career, and his long future of world-changing ideas and revolutionary involvement was cut short, and how I always planned on working with him. The community of web developers and programmers is very tightly knit, so it is curious how our paths did not cross more often, but that is now in the past.
So I sat there, listening to all the wonderful new things Google is doing this year to benefit humanity, and I was depressed. Here, less than a week after losing Allen, one of his favorite companies was once again doing what it was best at. I could only think of how poorly timed it was, but then I remembered that every moment in human history–every death, every birth, every life-changing, disastrous, awesome event–is but a blink of an eye of the universe, a short-lived burst of emotion. The message left by that moment, the lasting effect, is what we should focus on. Though we mourn the loss of Allen, we take it as a message, and a truly powerful one at that. We must continue his life’s work. And knowing that what he believed in will not die is enough to be happy about.