I’m calling it. Historians will look back on the advent of social media as a key escalating factor in international crises.
It actually isn’t always a very good thing when heads of state can spontaneously interact in real-time, at any moment, without their staffs vetting or tempering their messages, even when those heads of state are tired or upset or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
And there’s more here to consider. If you’re in your 40’s, as I am, you can remember that good friend from high school who you got along swimmingly with if you occasioned to speak with them twice a year — maybe on the phone, maybe when you visited the old neighborhood. You held diametrically opposed views on politics or religion, but those things seldom arose in conversation.
Then Facebook and Twitter brought all of those differences front and center. You could be reminded of them every day — in a platform of interaction that is manifestly habit-forming. The ease and availability of that interaction paradoxically drove you apart. (Recall, please, the old adage that “high fences make good neighbors.”) You woke up one day and realized that your good friend from high school wasn’t such a good friend any more.
What we are witnessing today is a case of technology having disastrous unintended consequences.