Military family members make case for social media

The Defense Department recently invited military spouses and other family members to weigh in on the debate about the role of social media in the military. Here is a sampling of the 275 comments officials received through the DOD Web 2.0 Guidance Forum.

How valuable and what are the benefits of Web 2.0/social-media tools to military families with loved ones who are deployed?

One thing missing from e-mail is the humor and emotional content that is available on social networks. I am an avid Facebook user, and sometimes my daughter can see that I am thinking about her when I send her a “gift” like a heart or a flower. Sure, they’re just icons, but how old does “I love ya” get? (Gary)

As the mother of a soldier currently deployed in Afghanistan, I find the use of Facebook priceless. With the time difference, he is able to give a brief message or leave an e-mail on his time, rather than staying up until all hours. When I get up in the morning, I am able to see if he updated his post. This lets me get started on my day without having the constant worry of “Is he OK?” (Janine)

Think of social-media sites as the “common operating picture” for friends and family. Although separated by time zone and space, friends and family can keep up in real time, or in “shifted time,” with what is going on in people’s lives via text, images, video and audio. For the deployed service member, the value is they can quickly scan their list of friends/family and have an idea of what is going on so that the next e-mail, chat or phone call is more pointed, more relevant and more connected. (Daniel)

What if Web 2.0/social-media tools were NOT available to military members serving overseas?

Without social media, I’d still be able to communicate with my sailor. But he wouldn’t be able to stay connected to all those friends who, although they care about him, aren’t so close that they’re going to write weekly. … He’s a reservist, and he’ll be gone for a year. When he comes back, he’ll need to reconnect with those friends to get back to normal, and he worries that they won’t be there. Facebook helps ease that worry. (Meagen)

If you’re a soldier, I know you can relate to this: Missing your first anniversary, the birth of your child or their first birthday, their first steps or words. These are things you will never get back and something that each soldier wants to feel like they are a part of. Pictures and videos posted on these media sites are the only way some of the soldiers can see these things. (Gina)

My mom and dad met when my mom was 14 and my dad was 18. He was headed to Vietnam with her older brother. My dad liked her and mailed her letters saying so. She never received the letters that my dad sent to her. He thought she didn’t like him. They almost didn’t get together because of that. Communication is one of the most basic and essential emotional needs that a human has. Lack of communication seriously affects morale, emotional wellness and even mental wellness. (Tammy)

Reader comments

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 Loose Lips Washingto, DC

Email, email with pictures, telephone calls, and good old fashion letters work. Why does the Dept of Defense need facebook? The more internet and web information out there increases the risk of compromise to our military services members. "Loose Lips Sink Ships" Social media is for liberty calls--not combat zones. Signed, Navy Sailor

Mon, Sep 21, 2009 The Curmudgeon

I'm all for supporting our folks overseas, but I think the need for social media is a tad overblown. While I use Facebook as well and enjoy it, as far as personal communication goes, emails work just fine. You can make attachment to email and you can create email lists to ensure extended friend and family networks keep in touch. Not as slick perhaps, you can't send those nice-but-ultimately-silly "gifts" like you can on Facebook and you have to work a tad harder to send along interesting links but e-mail still does the job. Nice to have but not a necessity.

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