Some Final Thoughts on Social Media/Disarmament

28 Jul

As my days at GAPW come to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about what I’ve gained here, how my projects fared, and if I’ve made an impression on the UN system (or at least convinced ODA that their outreach is b-o-r-i-n-g). Of course, I’ve spent a great deal of time working on our social media and disarmament project (I remember that meeting waaay back in November when I explained to ya’all what Tumblr was…)

I think it’s undeniable that social media is going to continue to play an important role in the future of almost every field–from corporations to NGOs–but the shape it has taken with regard to disarmament has continued to amaze me. Perhaps I was naive, but I was never particularly interested in disarmament–it’s just something I fell into. I was convinced I would end up working in something human rights related–in my undergrad, you were either interested in human rights (woo, Amnesty International) or security. I think my experience in school reflects a huge problem that we have (of course, I can only speak for my time at an American undergrad university)–students, who will inevitably become future diplomats/NGO & UN staff, are simply not growing up making these connections. On the other hand, those of us on the other side of the equation (the actual staff at these organizations) have been doing a poor job reaching out and engaging with the younger generation.

I’m always amazed by how terrible UNODA’s outreach is–I would bet that 4 out of 5 people on the street wouldn’t know of their existence. However, the problem starts to become apparent when 4 out of 5 future policy-makers are unclear about the work of ODA, as well as the field of disarmament.

Enter social media. I remain convinced that social media is the answer to these problems, and in particular,disarmament. The vast majority of users are young, ready to talk, and love to share/exchange information. And that is exactly what we need in the field of disarmament–an exchange of ideas–and an actual conversation. Rather than “educating” the “unenlightened,” we need to continue to ask difficult questions.

However, simply creating a Twitter or Facebook is not enough. As we’ve seen from our experience with DisarmDialogues, it is far too easy to engage with a small social circle of “insiders”–@Katherine–it’s easy to fall into the trap of tweeting for a few people. I’ve definitely seen this to be true during Arms Trade Treaty negotiations–there are a few “star” tweeters who actually care what the Fiji delegation has to say, and then there is the rest of the internet. We still need to figure out a way to engage with the rest of the internet.

That’s not to say DisarmDialogues hasn’t proved to be a useful tool for diplomats and NGOs, but I’d like to see even more engagement in the future. I think DisarmDialogues has the potential to be both a tool for diplomats/”insiders” as well as students (in particular, non-westerners), teachers, and just people, no matter what their professions. Disarmament is a somewhat exclusive club–there is certainly little transparency, and where there is transparency, there are not clear, reliable resources that are current.

Although posting on social media is often a task assigned to interns, it requires a lot of thought to write meaningful sentences in less than 140 characters. While links and facts are always appreciated, the success of DisarmDialogues will be contingent upon posting meaningful information. Hopefully, we will be able to continue the DisarmDialogues project through not just social media, but youth conferences and outreach. I can honestly say that as someone who is skeptical of A LOT of the work of the UN, I see DisarmDialogues as having a place in the future of disarmament.


PS I am forcing us to get Tumblr.

One Response to “Some Final Thoughts on Social Media/Disarmament”

  1. Global Action to Prevent War: Blog August 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Thanks for all your hard work on this project, Jessica. I think DisarmDialogues has a real opportunity to revamp the disarmament conversation for future policymakers.


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