How Facebook made us all diplomats

Traditional scholarship of international relations professes two distinct levels of diplomacy. Track I consists of talks between officials at the government level, Track II involves intellectuals. Treaties only exist between governments, but diplomatic breakthroughs like the Oslo Accords were a direct result of meetings between non-government representatives. In the last ten years a third, more effective track of diplomacy has emerged. Track III diplomacy is when normal citizens use the social technology to engage each other and build lasting partnerships; it brings peoples closer together, not only governments.

Track III diplomacy has relied largely on social media to grow in popularity; information remittance is the flow of information and conversations without sanction between people from countries with different cultures. Information remittance appeared more regularly as social media ascended to its valuable role in everyday life. Track III diplomacy depends on services like Facebook and Twitter to sustain inclusiveness; people who want to engage in Track III diplomacy need only internet access and an open mind. Track III diplomacy is a phenomena of globalization; it has transformed the ways which we interact with people and, often, where the people we are interacting with people are from.

Although the tools of information remittance might have been developed in the West, evidence suggest that the tide of influence is not limited to one direction. Max Fischer, an international editor at The Atlantic, wrote during the Occupy Wall Street movement, “that North Africans could be inspired by Americans who could be inspired by North Africans suggests that, as popular movements rise in power and prominence, the national boundaries and governments that once defined world order are declining in importance.”

Were tremors from Libya’s revolution felt on Wala Street [Wall Street]?

An example of a grassroots Track III diplomacy effort that became a short epidemic was the Israel-Loves-Iran movement. It had the necessary aspects of cultural and political information remittance. It may have been initiated by regular people, but the message was intended for the political leaders who have led Iran and Israel to become adversaries. The political differences that had beset the two nations were shoved aside for playful photos of parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends and people who are willing to face the daunting task of creating familiarity and normalcy between two increasingly marginalized cultures.

In its proper form, Track III diplomacy is the art of engaging people who would otherwise be bitter enemies, in a completely depoliticized context; it is easier to find commonalities when discussing hummus recipes or sports than it is when talking about nuclear bombs and terrorism. These similarities help forge friendships; friends are able to have progressive discourse much more effectively than strangers.

The internet has increasingly been used to connect students in ways that support learning and building critical partnerships. Dorm Room Diplomacy is one of many college organizations that hold formal Track III diplomatic conferences, using weekly videoconferences to form a continuous dialogue regarding cultural differences between the Arab world and the United States of America.

Universities should embrace and employ Track III diplomacy to make classroom learning more experiential. Studying abroad is no longer the only way to gain worldly experience while in college—parents need not pay thousands of dollars for their kids to travel and study what one friend described to me as, “drinking, eating, clubbing and European anatomy.” Changing the way our youth interacts with the rest of the world will help us overcome cultural barriers, reignite the American student’s competitive edge in the global market and confront the ignorance that prevailed leading up to the boiling point of the Arab world’s relations with the West.


About the Author
Ben Sheridan is a political science major at Binghamton University. He formerly studied Jewish Diaspora history and Middle East Politics at the Oxford Center for Jewish and Hebrew Studies. Ben lived in Jerusalem for a year and traveled to Europe, North Africa, and India with Kivunim; there he developed a strong interest in international relations. At school, Ben is actively involved with pro-Israel advocacy and was a 2012 Goldman Fellow at the AJC. When not working, Ben loves to cook, play basketball, travel, read, and take artsy photos on his phone.