US Ambassador addresses Syrians in a…Facebook note?

US Ambassador addresses Syrians in a…Facebook note?

Beirut Spring brought our attention to a letter from the US Ambassador to Syria, addressed to the people of Syria. Interestingly enough, the US ambassador’s choice of medium was a Facebook note.

While the US Embassy in Syria’s Facebook page has been around for a while, the ambassador didn’t start to address the public through the social network until May this year.

Middle Eastern governments are only just starting to catch up with the social networking game, but for US officials, the use of Facebook and Twitter is nothing particularly new. But more often than note, these networks are used to address their own citizens and constituencies.

The US Ambassador seems to be attempting to appeal to the Facebook generation of the country, although as far as online interaction is concerned, as the Syrian uprising has continued to grow over four long months, Syria has seen an inordinate amount of trolls on social networking sites attacking protesters and their advocates.

The choice of medium is certainly interesting. Is it a sign of the times, with government officials taking to Facebook to address, poll and interact with people? Is it an attempt to break barriers, and get right to the point? The language of the note is certainly far from official, even including an Arabic colloquialism, Menhabak, used to refer to government supporters.

The comments the note has received points to the very flaw of using a medium like Facebook to address a nation, particularly one torn at the seams. Dialogue quickly degenerates into a slinging match between those for and those against, and all that is left is hundreds of comments that do nothing to promote dialogue, understanding, or anything remotely positive.

Maybe because of its less than official air, there’s a sense that there’s no accountability for a Facebook note? That could well be the case.

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