Since we have discussed Share America in class a few times, I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at this public diplomacy effort led by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.On the IIP’s website, Macon Phillips notes that the bureau’s mission is to “engage audiences around the world to work with the United States on shared interests.” More specifically the IPP website notes that Share America as a “digital platform optimized so content can flow seamlessly across social media networks with easy access form mobile devices.”
With this in mind, the website’s layout and structure appears to fulfill this goal. The website looks exactly like Upworthy, a social media website designed to highlight things that matter on the internet and “pass em on,” as each of Share America’s post includes a “Tweet This” and “Share This.” The days stories are easy to access, and from what is being discussed, it is easy to decipher what values the United States is promoting as they are listed under the search feature “themes.” The first few include democracy, diversity, civil society, and education. Therefore, there is a consistent and clear narrative. And as a reviews noted on Facebook, the simplicity of the website with its shorter stories is good for English beginners, which if helpful for students looking to study in the U.S. or citizens around the world looking to immigrate the the U.S.
However, as a one stop digital platform for sharing America, something about Share America seems a bit off. As a millennial who has long utilized digital platforms as a means to gather news, I am not sure if this website would be a place I would go, but to test these suspicions, I emailed my four cousins in New Zealand and simply sent them the website and asked them their thoughts. Two were suspicious of the .gov address and the explanation that the website was an effort by the State Department. One asked if this was news or propaganda. The third cousin said she appreciated the optimistic tone of the website noting that it reflected the optimistic nature of the American people, and the fourth cousin simply noted that it was easy to use, but the headlines were not “real news.” Although this is a narrow sample, I thought there feedback matched my suspicions, and upon further investigation of the website’s Facebook and Twitter, Share America does have a Twitter following of almost 50,000 people, but overall engagement on both Facebook and Twitter appear to be low. This is interesting since one of the goals of the website is to stimulate conversation and encourage a flow of information across digital platforms, yet the shares and comments are low on most stories.
Overall, I think it will be difficult for Share America to gain the significant traction that the website is designed to have because of factors such as the crowded media environment on the internet, the narrow focus on youth readers and social media, and the question of whether such a website is real news or just propaganda. Regardless, it will be interesting continue to watch this website to see what impact, if any, this website will have on American diplomacy efforts in the digital age.