Diplomacy has noticeably moved to Twitter and turned into monologues aiming to impress the audience, but not to have direct negotiations with the other party. Official accounts of foreign offices today compete in wit and sharp words. The problem of Twitter diplomacy is everlasting presence of the third party: spectators who immediately show you their support or dissatisfaction. This makes foreign policy highly dependent on domestic policy, likes and dislikes of a non-professional audience.
As Russian diplomats and experts say
, during recent years many serious negotiation tracks have been suspended and backstage communication has significantly narrowed. COVID-19 additionally boosted this process as the majority of international summits and forums have been cancelled or postponed until 2021 or even later. Zoom meetings do not grant space for normal backstage diplomacy. What we see is that the more digital opportunities you have, the less space there is for personal interaction.
Flows of information create serious competition and challenges for "boring" official statements. If you want to attract attention, you need to be provocative and loud – that is the 'normal' logic of the informational society. That is why actions and opinions of officials in social media more and more often cross the red line or cause international scandals. Unfortunately, informational consumer society is more interested in negative and shocking developments in relations among states, and simultaneously this society is indifferent to neutral news of meetings, negotiations and new agreements conducted by political leaders and diplomats.
Today traditional diplomacy in the public eye looks just like a set of ceremonies and pleasant protocol photos. Erosion of global institutions inevitably influences diplomatic practices and the reason for this crumbling is not solely social media and information technologies development. It is connected as well to the quality of modern political elites, the protracted and uncertain world order transformation and new values appearing amongst the young generation. Of course, in the time of modern means of communication, diplomacy must evolve as well. The question is – what is the right direction of this evolution?
Official diplomacy is also becoming more transparent and less secret. Becoming more democratic and open is a positive trend, is it not? But practically it is not always conducive as full transparency of negotiations may spawn dead ends in most painful and tense issues because of the existing pressure from the networked society. There is always a dilemma about effectiveness of elite diplomacy and the importance of public opinion, but the latter can be ineffective if motivated by hostility and desire for revenge.