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On “Likes” for peace, and Tweeting Arabs on Facebook

What a world it could be if we knew how to build an online peace that would hold in the real world.

The “Tweeting Arab” Facebook page with around 7000 users was by far the most popular pagefor Palestinian – Israeli Jew dialogue in 2014. The second most popular only ran to 4000 users. Mor,Ron, and Maoz used “Tweeting Arabs” to test on social media several theories built on the role of face-to-face dialogue in creating peace.

The narrative model of intergroup dialogue suggests that if people share difficult personal stories, their empathy with each other grows, which can contribute to reconciliation. The authors focused on two important lines of dialogue in their analysis of 85 posts in November 2014.

First, Palestinian stories of their suffering were met by negative comments from Israeli-Jews,including blaming Palestinians for hypocrisy. Hostility, not empathy, increased. In this case then arrative model was not working on social media in the same way it had in face-to-face dialogue.

The second major line of dialogue were Palestinian posts calling for peace and reconciliation.The Israeli press does not commonly present Palestinian voices for peace and against terror. “Tweeting Arabs” posts were then a significant contrast. The comments and reactions were mostly positive and created further dialogue.

Another theory unpacks the process of dialogue. In early stages participants do not share their feelings, but take each other’s self-perception as a given. Later, participants graduate to a dialogue where they do share feelings and try to understand each other’s point-of-view. This is a long-term process, which one month of Facebook postings cannot capture.

At least in this instance the narrative model which works in face-to-face conversations over the long term is not as effective on Facebook.

However, the authors have discovered that on “Tweeting Arabs” the line of discussion of relatively rarely heard Palestinian voices for peace produced significant dialogue.

With careful selection of discussion topics on social media, some concrete progress toward building a foundation of reconciliation is possible.

See the original research:

Yifat Mor, Yiftach Ron, and Ifat Maoz. “Likes” for peace: can Facebook promote dialogue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Media and Communication, 2016, 4(1): 16-26.

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