"It's not being corporate, it's being passionate."

It's not shouting, it's listening. It's not being corporate, it's being passionate. That's what the honey- voiced narrator of this British Council video suggests in laying out the rationale for social networking. But is it Propaganda or Important Cultural Exchange or an untease-able admixture of both?

The British Council - Social Media & You - Infographics from binalogue on Vimeo.

This video is a great starting point for conversation about social networking and social media in general.

It really begs the question, Does social networking connect or separate people? And, does it go beyond separating people from each other; does it separate people from their own critical thinking? Are social networks a proxy for a generation of people who now find the world too complex to sort out independently?

Even more intriguing/perhaps troubling/ironic, is the fact that the British Council is an organization whose historical function has been mainly as a propaganda machine for Britain. Perhaps a less derogatory way of saying this is that the British Council's main thrust is to put the best face possible on Great Britain through cultural exchange. But it is propaganda. It's propaganda because it is executing a systematic plan to influence opinion about a particular government and culture. Think, for example, about the surreally perfect families vacationing and frolicking in current television commercials that are designed to attract tourism to specific U.S. States -- the commercials that leave you baffled as to their intent until the last Voice-over and credits, which invariably say something like, "Pure Michigan" and you realize the entire last 30 seconds were designed to lead you to believe that, rather than being a state where there is massive economic depression in major cities, where over half the year is what most people call "winter," Michigan is a place where the sun always shines on always happy people always doing happy things.

The British Council video says that we are making emotional connections when we see posts and Share, Re-tweet, or Pin. But do we really take time to think critically about the information we are passing along, what agenda lurks behind it -- even agendas the original poster is unaware of? Does sharing raise consciousness or perpetuate agenda-driven, corporate interests? If we Share or Re-tweet or Pin the Pure Michigan ad (and I mean earnestly, not including sharing of it in an ironic or satirical or point-out-the-hypocrisy way) then what are we sharing? What are we perpetuating? What are we ignoring? And more troubling than these types of explicitly distorted self-serving messages (read All Advertising), are those we messages/agendas we promulgate without our permission.
How do we become savvy users of social networks without participating in agendas we don't approve of? See Douglas Rushkoff's reasons for leaving FB as Exhibit A.

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