Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Influence of Facebook

Sometimes I sit and think about what deployment must have been like for my grandparents during World War II.  There was no internet - no Skype, email, or facebook.  Handwritten letters only occasionally made it to their desired recipient.  My grandmother went months without hearing from my grandfather.

Times have definitely changed.  My husband and I have almost unlimited ways of communicating with each other: email, snail mail, telephone, yahoo messenger, google chat, skype, facebook etc etc.  It's pretty incredible to think about.

I always imagined the technology would help with unit cohesiveness and family support.  It's a small unit and everyone quickly became facebook friends with each other.  We formed a private group for all the soldiers and their family members.  It was intended to be a way for everyone to keep in contact and encourage each other through the tough times.  Unfortunately, things quickly went downhill from there.

Facebook became the downfall of the entire support network.  It began with inappropriate comments and photographs.  While it was a private group for the unit and family, there were concerns that people were being offensive to others in the group.  At one point, this turned into a series of arguments between different people and bred a lot of animosity.  Things only unraveled further from there.

Recently someone publicly posted an article about an attack on my husband's base from a few months ago.  Unfortunately, the majority of family members had not been aware of what had happened. 

I remember the day clearly.  I knew something was wrong because my husband did not respond to my email or come online for our previously planned Skype date.  In fact, no one from his unit came online.  Time passed and I started getting more freaked out.  By the end of the day I was hysterically crying on the phone with my husband's best friend.  When I finally heard from him the next day, he confirmed that something had happened and there had been a black out but everything was fine.  He downplayed things for my mental health and I appreciated that.

A couple weeks later I signed on to facebook and one of his fellow soldiers - a superior in fact - had posted an article on his wall about that specific day.  The article referred to how dangerous their base was and how terrible that particular day was for the troops that were there. I won't site specifics because I don't want to reveal too much about the unit, but it described a particularly terrifying thing for family members to hear.  It was something that I and several other spouses wished we hadn't read.  Sometimes secrets exist in military relationships for a very important reason and we like to keep it that way.  It was insensitive and caused a lot of anguish and further animosity.

Most recently a posting was made publicly about when the unit would be coming home.  We all know that Obama has promised all troops out of Iraq by Dec 31, but everyone in the military knows not to hold their breath about anything.  Most members of the unit had told their family not to expect anything so soon and that they would probably be in Kuwait or somewhere else for an unspecified amount of time.  The posting referred to the unit's date of return in fairly specific fashion.  This was the last straw for a lot of upset family members who were trying desperately not to get their hopes up and for soldiers who were trying not to disappoint their loved ones.  Not to mention the fact that people are angry about an obvious OPSEC violation.

Family members are upset. Soldiers are irate. Nasty emails have been sent around.  There has been name calling.  People have defriended each other on facebook.  The unit is divided and family support has unraveled.

Deployment is difficult enough but we're now at the point of complete disaster.

Technology is amazing but it's equally terrifying how it can completely change the dynamics of a group.

How has technology affected your unit cohesiveness and family support?  Has it been a blessing or a disaster?