Thousands of miles away from where you sit at your computer, reading this article and probably scrolling through your Facebook feed, Palestinian and Israeli students are using the social network site to connect across the many divides that separate their cultures.
Called YALA-Young Leaders, the Facebook page provides young Israelis and Palestinians with a safe place to interact and learn about each other away from the strife of the Middle Eastern conflict. The conversations range from serious, such as peace negotiations, to more lighthearted topics like music and art.
Even though sites like Facebook often receive a bad rap as shallow and promoting of laziness and stalkerism, you have to wonder if such communication would be available if it weren’t for the strength of the online community. The same reasons people scorn Facebook — it’s not real life, it prevents face-to-face connection — are the same reasons that have allowed for the beginnings of connections between two disparate groups of young people.
Its existence as an online community has made Facebook the ideal platform for communication between people who are often physically unable to meet in the real world. Sure, the conversations that take place online are no replacement for what you can learn about someone in person, but they do, at the very least, raise awareness of the humanity of everyone on the site.
So if you feel like Facebook is limiting your in-person interactions, remember that for when seeing someone face-to-face is simply impossible, like it frequently is in the contentious areas of the Middle East, it’s about as close as you can come. Check out The New York Times for the full story.