Personal interaction is the heart of diplomacy
Viktoriia Ivanchenko
Viktoria Ivanchenko
Editor-in-chief at PICREADI
COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes to our everyday life and converted our normal communication into digital. Some borders are already open, international events as huge world forums and the Olympic games also have begun to take place with some restrictions and precautions. We all have seen that personal interaction is still urgent for diplomacy and a better understanding of each other.
We all now have more digital windows and time for international talks from home or offices, we don't have to spend time traveling or preparing for the meetings. Nevertheless, this looks like a 'lite version' of real-life and communication.
It has been already more than a year since the pandemic started and brought closed borders, lockdowns, and quarantines all over the world. Local outbreaks of the COVID-19 became global, making the whole world face the same conditions and rules: no mass gatherings allowed, remoted work, online meetings only, strict restrictions of contacts… The danger of social interaction paused normal living or had to bring it into the digital space. And as many could already see, digital means of communication turned out to be a great relief in the times of staying home, but not a full-fledged substitute. They still lack a lot.

Communications are not just an exchange of information or opinions, it is a process of creating bonds. Digital communication can't help you feel personal chemistry, become deeply empathic, exchange your emotions with others. Online you do not normally cover the body language, glances, and gestures of your interlocutor. Also, you are deprived of such usual tactile ways of communicating as hugs, handshakes, backslapping that normally tell you a lot about the level of trust and sympathy you have for each other. Even in your business contacts.

That all is highly relevant to diplomacy – any kind of it. Official diplomats possess diplomatic passports and had opportunities to cross the border even in the atmosphere of most tough restrictions. Meanwhile, public diplomacy as diplomacy among non-officials turned out to be more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic consequences. The changes of the border regimes and new flying rules have had a direct impact on public diplomacy development. Of course, we all now have more digital windows and time for international talks from home or offices, we don't have to spend time traveling or preparing for the meetings. Nevertheless, this looks like a 'lite version' of real-life and communication.
Online- and offline participation in Meeting Russia Reunion, a public diplomacy program
Public diplomacy is a good way to get knowledge about your counterpart and explain your vision of the world. It is a good opportunity to stay tuned and in a good shape as a professional in your sphere. International communication is a great chance for societies to understand each other better and to soften tension existing on the official level.

Online you cannot see the other side with your own eyes, plunge into the atmosphere of the other society and culture. Online meetings take a lot of your energy, but in the end, give little back. They are good when they save your time from long boring office meetings. Meanwhile, Zoom fatigue is a notable sign of our time. It happens when you are not able to get inspired by meetings, by active social life, by a tangible sense of solidarity. Your brain just gets overloaded with information, social media messages, and job tasks you have to complete all the time.

Thanks to the COVID-19 months' many illusions about the future of diplomacy and international communication have disappeared. Diplomacy and communications cannot become fully digital. We also have seen how much social issues influence our everyday life and international affairs.

COVID-19 is still dangerous and obscure although we already have a set of vaccines. But the absence of the mechanism which could grant those vaccines to poorer countries and the lack of will to recognize vaccines of other countries demonstrates how far we are from international solidarity and mutual support.

The spirit of the pandemic despair pushes us to search for the guilty party and to close our states. Concentration on your own affairs is not bad in its heart, but we shouldn't forget that we all share the same planet. And diplomacy is also necessary to make this planet a safer place. When there is no diplomacy, then chaos and war are coming. Not the best perspective, definitely.
Photo by note thanun on Unsplash