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Social networking – a digital mutual admiration forum where real debate is dumbed down

By Des Latham, Johannesburg Area, South Africa - Online Editor, BDFM at AVUSA

Is social networking not just a group of digital silos where mutual admiration societies loaf together mentally?   Do you follow people you hate?  Do you allow yourself to see or even accept that other argument?  Particularly the ideological purists and religious zealots,  and social fundamentalists?  Do you go to AbortionR Us if you’re a pro-lifer?  No.  You probably don’t.  So aren’t you becoming just a little more dumb?  Isn’t social networking supposed to be like a large ideas pool where you can dip and out and take the best and leave the worst?  Or is it where people all rub each other up the right way continuously and market what they already know ?  

 There is so much noise in our eyes and ears, partly due to our own self-molestation by pursuing the NEXT NEW big thing and then marketing it to each other that we forget the real world.   I see a great deal of steam coming off social networking zones – but in terms of real debate something is lacking.  Yes, Twitter is great for receiving breaking information, or as a news feed for free.  Not entirely accurate, and sometimes damaging, as its a zone in which folk we can’t really trust,  tell us things we can’t really test.  What’s more, its already being used by government agencies to spy on you.   But don’t worry,  that’s after they’ve searched for you using the latest Google search and stored your details in some shady server somewhere.


Probably marked “danger to the state”  in many cases,  even though all you’re talking about is freedom of expression or something.   

Back to the debate about debating.  Having spent time at Stanford University,  I was a bit disconcerted by their different organizations.   Hispanic-ITalian club.   Mestizo-Sioux assocatiation.   Diasporic-African-LAtino-Southern-Honduras association. Mandarin Chinese Private Club.  They’re regarded as minority organizations.  But all I smelt was Verwoerd in all of them.  Don’t give me that “no its organization in the face of malice”  baloney.  It’s simply a group of people who want to be outside and want to gather in the safety of their own gratuitousness.  Outside whatever is regarded as inside.  And now in our campuses,  nearly two decades after Apartheid got whacked, we have the Zulu Association,  the South-Sotha poetry association, the Northern-Tswana forum.  What?   To re-inforce our cultural differentiation ?  More like to re-impose our colonial masters’ value chains and Frantz Fanon just nods knowingly.    What about   The Pink Ladies …nah ….. sorry that’s not an association,  that’s a taxi cab company or a brothel.    

What a shame.  Its all nice and stuff to attach yourselves to these minority organizations,  but its a bit like the Twitter group for pro-lifers against Abortion murderers.  Or the pro-choice lobby against religious intolerance association.  We end up in tiny little whirling groups all preaching to our converted and failing to debate.   Which means we’re all getting a little more dumb. 

Which is pretty scary as many of us start off dumb enough.  

We get seriously delapidated organizations like the ANC Youth League who debate hatefully behind closed doors and boot out the journalists when they realize the debate is getting heated.  If Fanon tried to join,  the bully-boys there would probably have him booted out.  Another example of the dumbing down of debate is parliament trying to hold a public hearing into the SABC  as a private hearing asking the public, who sponsors them,  to leave the room.

I look forward to the full-frontal debate on things I fear and loathe,  just so that I can understand better why I fear and loathe ‘em.  And  somewhere along the way,  after listening to the other side,  change my mind about something and get smart.

www..businessday.co.za

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