Lots of news these days about what role Facebook and Twitter played in the Egyptian revolution, with some people extolling the wonders of social networks and others reminding them that plenty of revolutions happened just fine before Facebook came along.
Overlooked is the more subtle, ongoing role the web plays in making connections and building social capital. Peace.Facebook.com is a great site, the highlight of which is a chart showing the huge number of connections made on Facebook between traditionally conflict-prone groups. In our minds, we think of Israelis and Palestinians as completely segregated and full of hatred for one another, but if there are 19,000 friend connections made between the two groups every day, how bad can it be? Likewise, there are a stunning 85,000 daily connections made between Indians and Pakistanis.
The site also shows the results of a survey asking "Do you think we will achieve world peace within 50 years?" While it's interesting to see the different results among countries, I think this is a less useful exercise. It perpetuates a big misconception about peace - that it is a single, all-or-nothing event. How would we know if we hit "world peace" … does that mean the end of all wars? What about simmering conflicts among non-state actors? Does it mean the end of all crime? Does it mean we're all singing together on a hill about Coke? The loftiness of the question is most likely contributing to the low percentage responding "yes": only nine percent in the U.S. Not even I think everything is going to be perfect in 50 years. A lot better than today, yes. But defined as "world peace"? From what I've seen, it's better to keep our goals tangible and well-defined, and thus achievable.
Check out the peace.facebook site here.