MOUNTAINS belie the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” They are by nature, huge, rugged, and remote. So it’s more like, “within sight, who cares?” As such, mountain communities are often seen as isolated and have nothing in common with other communities.

But with global warming and the growing scarcity of freshwater especially during the present dry spell of El Niño, people are starting to have a second look on mountain watersheds that host the headwaters of rivers. After all, those who’ve undergone hunger strikes know they’ll survive for days without food, but not without water.

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Remote mountain communities are starting to get connected with one another. In fact, I’m in close contact with Nepalese professionals. It’s a case where the Himalayas and Andean mountain communities interact with the mountain communities of Mt. Kanlaon via the borderless space of the internet and Facebook.

A young environmental scientist, Tek Jeung Mat, tagged me in his Facebook article. Tek is from Nepal, working for the Asia-Pacific Mountain Network based in Nepal, home of the Himalayas. The APMN established knowledge sharing platform connecting mountain regions and communities through dialog and networking in Asia and the Pacific to promote the mountain agenda among its community members and interest groups, of which I’m a member.

Entitled “Potential of online social networks in promoting the mountain agenda,” Tek argued with touching base with members to push for a common sustainable mountain development agenda.

Tek wrote that social networking is a process of clustering individuals, creating social relations among them, and, eventually, forming groups through the identification of commonalities and common objectives. In Facebook lingo, that could mean adding friends to your account or joining a Fan page.

The history of social networking is as old as humankind. Hunting and gathering communities formed social networks within families, clans and tribes. A big shift came after the Industrial Revolution, with the invention of audio-visual and Internet technologies.

Radio took 35 years to find its market, television 15 years, the Internet five years, and Google (search) three years. The race doesn’t stop there. Facebook, an online social network site (SNS), launched on February 4, 2004, took the world by storm and caught on in only two years. No wonder, it now has 200 million global memberships.

Tek continues. With increased investments to reduce the digital divide in rural areas and with the introduction of new communication tools, online social networks (OSNs) found their market very quickly in these areas. SNSs like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Ning, and Twitter recruited members in the hundreds of millions.

Inspired by the increasing popularity of online social networking sites, almost all new generation Smart phones and devices are offering direct access to SNSs. (I don’t, however. I’m completely happy linking with the world from my laptop, although Indonesian human rights lawyer Lily Putri often emails me through her Blackberry).

Social networking sites continue improving their platforms, making them more usable, more secure, quicker, more attractive, and easier to use. Facebook upgraded its site three times last year alone. This period saw SNSs in many languages, covering different geographic regions and targeting diverse groups.

Almost all sectors of the economy and classes of people recognized the potential and merits of social networking. Many conservation and development organizations created online groups of their members on social networking sites, to whom they provide updates of organizational activities and events. Members provide feedback, post blogs, and exchange knowledge, thus adding value.

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