Face-to-face diplomacy isn’t necessary anymore.
According to a 2012 Atlantic article, “digital diplomacy . . . faces such high expectations as a supposedly revolutionary technology.” Indeed, after the Obama administration prioritized digital diplomacy, and with some hailing it as a way for “governments and citizens to communicate faster and more effectively,” one might come to the conclusion that high-tech diplomacy could soon edge out old-fashioned diplomatic work.
Social networking is useful as a diplomatic tool, but only as a complement to the work of face-to-face contacts with key audiences and decision-makers. There comes a point in human relations (particularly when dealing with another society and culture) when you must engage face to face, in the local language, to develop the trust and committed relationships that we need to discuss serious international issues (including, as an extreme example, military and/or diplomatic support).
For instance, then-Secretary of State John Kerry didn’t Skype in to Ukraine but instead visited that country twice in recent years, first in March 2014 in the face of the Russian campaign to annex Crimea and then in July 2016 to promote solidarity with the United States amid separatist fighting. He personally took his message to Kiev, making his point more forcefully than if he had delivered it through an electronic transmission. We obviously didn’t roll back the Russians, but it was a clear demonstration of where we stood and our willingness to send personnel in the flesh to make our point.