My husband and I were still dating when he was preparing for his deployment to Afghanistan. I received my inaugural “sit down” with his mother and her good friend, both retired Army Spouses.
I was told that there would be a lack of communication during his deployment. Phone calls would be difficult; letters might come every few weeks, if that, and the year would drag by. After all, they had both been in my position and knew what I could expect. However, in the 365 days that my husband was deployed I received 335 phone calls, countless emails and pictures, and numerous messages through social media outlets.
Times have definitely changed, but revolutionized? I’m not so sure.
Merriam-Webster defines revolutionize as to “change fundamentally and completely”.
I would argue that social media has not changed the military spouse experience fundamentally. The challenges that we face are still there (the moves, the deployments, etc.) and they are still as difficult as ever. However what it has done is to make communication and information gathering more accessible. The social media platform offers a constant, albeit superficial, means of maintaining contact with family, friends, and acquaintances (both business and social).
On the personal side it is comforting to know that there are other spouses and families who are going through the same struggles as I am and finding those who share a positive attitude has been critical. Negativity can run rampant and drag one down but being able to send out a post or text and get back some immediate and much-needed support makes even the toughest days a little easier. In addition, since most people are far too busy to sit down and write a letter or print out pictures to send, posting keeps everyone in touch with those whom we might otherwise be estranged.
On the professional side the superficial contact is exactly the relaxed approach that helps to promote my business. Through the social media avenues I can post information to my friends and acquaintances who then pass it on to their friends and acquaintances. This confidence in the information I present provides word of mouth advertising in a very nonthreatening manner. The availability of information has also kept me in the loop about opportunities that I would probably never have known about or even considered in the past. My immediate environment can be limiting and it is easy to get into a mindset of what is available, blocking out possibilities.
Being able to cast out feelers in many directions through the Internet and social media in particular has kept me in a state of awareness to any opportunity that is out there. I believe that the Army does a fairly decent job of making information available to families, especially through social media. It provides resources that are available to all military personnel and families, allowing even those spouses who are homebound to access support services.
Social media access is a crucial part of the success of the soldier, because if he/she is worrying about his/her family being isolated at home, it is difficult to concentrate on the mission at hand.
All in all, I believe that the Internet and social media has been a positive addition to the military spouse experience. There is always room to improve and I look forward to seeing what the future holds!