As my number of friends on Facebook creeps towards an abitrary figure above which I have decided that the list would be unmanageable, I am at a loss to decide who to defriend. Will they notice? Will they be upset? Will they care? And then I see today’s headlines in the Washington Post
Hungarian prime minister uses Facebook page to ‘unfriend’ IMF, rejects alleged loan conditions
In a nutshell, Orban posted a video message on his official Facebook page saying that Hungary ‘could not accept pension cuts, the elimination of a bank tax, fewer public employees and other conditions in exchange for an IMF loan that other officials have said could be about €15 billion ($18.9 billion).’ The fact that I’m hard pushed to believe tht the IMF would actually furnish a list of its negotiating terms is neither here nor there. If you’re interested in the details, you can read all about it on Hungarian Spectrum. What I’m more concerned about is the idea that declarations on Facebook become a new diplomactic norm!
There’s difference between unfriending and defriending. To defriend , we have to be connected. The IMF does have a Facebook page with 6050 likes, but it’s hard to see if Hungary or the PM himself recently unliked them. Unfriending is simply airing your less-than-friendly feelings for all your followers to see and the rest of the world to pick up on.
Can this be proper? Is this a seemly way for a Head of State to conduct himself? I’m reminded of the recent Twitter tiff that the Estonian President engaged in and am on the brink of despair. Protocol is very much a part of diplomacy and I’m more than a little concerned that the temptation provided by social media might undermine these values. If the rules of the game change (or disappear altogether), will diplomacy become a free-for-all?