Social Networking Sites such as twitter and Facebook have long since become a fixture in our lives. Whether they are used as a tool for maintaining and deepening friendships, seeking new employment opportunities or even gathering information on past lovers, social networks have impacted numerous areas of daily life. Yet what is truly remarkable is that social networks are continuously evolving as is the manner in which we use them. While Facebook was originally intended to serve as a tool for maintaining social ties, recent studies have indicated that American teens now use this social network as their main source for news and information gathering.
Twitter has also evolved since its launch in 2006. Intended to serve as a micro blogging service, twitter is now used by different users to different ends. Reporters use tweets in order to complement their stories, news organizations canvas the “twittosphere” in order to analyze public sentiment and interests and social protest movements use twitter in order to promote their cause.
In the past few years, another powerful player has joined the twittoverse- the nation state. Nowadays, foreign ministries throughout the world are flocking to twitter as part of their digital diplomacy efforts. Foreign ministries have embraced twitter as it allows them to disseminate foreign policy messages to global audiences, engage with foreign populations in order to facilitate the acceptance of their foreign policy and even evaluate their image amongst foreign nations. Moreover, foreign ministries and their embassies routinely follow their peers in order to gather information regarding other nations’ foreign policy agenda. This is nowhere more evident than in the United Nations, one of the world’s most important hubs of diplomacy.
Embassies to the U.N. routinely use twitter in order to gain insight into other nations’ initiatives, learn how different nations intended to vote on upcoming resolutions and even influence deliberations in UN committees. Recently, I have attempted to analyze the network of world embassies to the United Nations as a social network asking which UN embassies are most popular within this network and which embassies have the ability to effectively disseminate information throughout this network. A recurring finding of this analysis is the centrality of the Palestinian embassy to the UN.
Image: the UN social network (Palestine’s embassy marked in red)
The Palestinian embassy to the United Nations is currently followed by thirty three other UN embassies making it one of the most popular members within the UN’s social network. More importantly, the Palestinian mission serves as an important hub of information within this network as many countries that do not follow one another, follow the Palestinian embassy turning into a bridge over international waters.
The Palestinian embassy to the UN is also one of the ten most connected embassies within the UN social network enabling it to effectively disseminate information and foreign policy messages throughout the entire network. Thus, this embassy seems to have an impressive global reach.
It is also the identity of its followers that reveals the centrality of the Palestinian embassy to the UN as its twitter account is followed by six of the G-7 nations as well as by the vast majority of nations currently comprising the UN’s holy of holies, the Security Council. This indicates that the Palestinian embassy has the ability to disseminate information to, and engage with, some of the world’s most influential nations.
Social media experts often warn us from the tyranny of numbers. After all, the question is not necessarily how many followers one embassy has, but whether that embassy effectively uses its social media accounts in order to promote its national interests and garner the support of the international community for its policies.
Recently, the Palestinian embassy has been increasingly using its twitter account to do just.
Tweets published over the past few weeks have dealt with issues ranging from Palestinian world heritage sites to highlighting Palestinian activity in UN forums and gathering international support for the new unity Palestinian unity government. Followers of the embassy are also exposed to Palestinian culture. Such was the case with a long string of tweets published on May 31st which all celebrating the first ever qualification of the Palestinian national soccer team to the Asia Cup.
We are often reminded of the fact that the online and offline world are no longer separate but are rather an extension of one another. Thus it is possible that through its popular embassy to the UN, Palestine is tweeting its way to statehood for states that exist on twitter may soon exist opposite Israel.
This post originally appeared as an Op Ed article on the Times of Israel website