There is idealism and then there is idealism. At least that’s what we realized in our conversations with Brian Johnson, founder of the hip and happening new social-networking site Zaadz.com. Johnson and his dedicated management team have spent the last year trying to uplevel the web’s hottest trend by bringing together cultural creatives, integralists, artists, spiritual progressives, counterculturalists, seekers, visionaries, leaders, activists, and various others to talk, blog, share, dialogue, discuss, argue, create, connect, explore, and generally do everything else that people do on these exploding virtual communities on the internet.
Now for those who haven’t yet been touched by this latest internet revolution, social networking sites are sort of mini social clubs, online communities that allow individuals to meet and connect with like-minded people from all over the world. And given that Rupert Murdoch recently purchased MySpace—the most popular of these influential websites with its more than one hundred million users—for a cool five hundred and eighty million dollars, suffice it to say that interest has skyrocketed. Zaadz is like MySpace with one important caveat: Only a certain type of person need apply. What type? Well, just check out the front page of the website, and things quickly become clear. “Let’s change the world” are the first words you’ll see, in bold black type. A couple of lines down comes “Our mission. We’re gonna change the world,” just in case you missed it the first time. And what kind of people are they looking for to accomplish this mission? You guessed it: “People CRAZY enough to think they can change the world”—just a few lines farther down.
The source of all of this optimism is Johnson himself, Zaadz’s self-described “philosopher and CEO.” Young, smart, idealistic, and ambitious, Johnson named his business after the Dutch word for “seed,” and he has surrounded himself with a passionate young management team that is equally dedicated to the enormous potential of Zaadz and social networking. He likes to say things like, “We’re in the process of building THE most inspired community of people in the world.” And truth be told, after watching Johnson and his team go from basically nothing to a heck of a business in less than two years (fifty thousand members and counting—including a significant number of What Is Enlightenment?’s friends and colleagues), it’s hard not to believe in these take-no-prisoners, unapologetic utopians who seem to live and breathe inspiration and who actually are convinced that a bunch of individuals getting together on a website can add up to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world.
In fact, when you speak to Johnson, you can’t help but notice that his eye is on a prize much bigger than creating an influential and successful website. For him, Zaadz is destined to become not just a community or a network, but a brand. Think Virgin if Richard Branson were a meditator and read integral philosophy. Johnson ultimately envisions the name Zaadz applying to a whole host of products and companies, from resorts to urban centers to who knows what else. And given the power of the internet and the fresh perspectives and worldcentric idealism of a new generation of technology-conscious countercultural entrepreneurs, don’t be surprised if one day the name Zaadz becomes a regular part of your lexicon.
So for this issue of WIE on the nature of utopia and community, we spoke with the team behind Zaadz, who are performing one of the most interesting experiments in the power of the internet to cross borders, cultures, and countries and create a conscious, committed social network unlike any that the virtual world, and perhaps the real world, has ever seen.