Until a couple years ago, the military had blocked most access to Facebook and social media sites because of concerns over security breaches. Now, military commanders educate and advise troops and their families on how to use social media safely and securely.
The result, per USA Today’s Mike Chalmers reporting on social media and military families, is that the use of social media sites has taken off as a means of service people staying in contact with their families. Social media networks are revolutionizing what it means to be deployed to a war zone or other post, per the experts Chalmers spoke with.
Here’s a number of the stories shared by Chalmers:
- During his year in Iraq, Army Major Thomas Murphy would video-chat on Skype with his wife and two daughters almost daily. Murphy told of the ability to break away from the monotony of everyday stress and feel like you’re back home for a bit. His wife felt he was part of their day-to-day life.
- Katelyn Rowley, a 24-year-old senior airman with the Delaware Air National Guard, said she used Facebook and Skype to keep in touch with her fiancé and family during her six-month deployment to Kuwait last year. She couldn’t imagine relying on letters.
- In previous deployments to Iraq and South America, Master Sgt. Clifford Snyder relied on letters and brief phone calls to keep in touch with his wife and three children. During his most recent six-month deployment to Iraq in 2009-10, he checked in with them on Facebook and video-chatted with them on Skype almost daily. Rather than missing the kids growth and feeling like a visitor on his return, he got to see the kids and get updates on school and other activities daily.
- The wife of Army Spc. Chris Mathis, who was serving in Afghanistan put the video camera on the floor in front of their new born daughter so he could sort of play with her.
Just how prevalent is social media in the military?
- Tara Crooks, co-founder of the Army Wife Network, an Oklahoma-based company offering support and advice for military spouses, doesn’t don’t know a military family member who isn’t on Facebook.
- No other military in the history of warfare has had this level of access to their families per Benjamin Karney, a social psychologist at UCLA, who studies marriage and family relationships in the military.
As to privacy, Facebook groups are used so only members of the group can see comments and pictures and spouses create secret groups for intimate conversations.
Two years ago — blocked access to social media sites. Today — as a result of education and counsel on how to wisely social media sites, close connections and relationships flourish.
Law firms could learn from the USA military.
The military’s concerns over security and safety exceed a law firm’s concerns regarding confidentiality, conflicts, and distraction. So as to empower its people, the military figured out how to use social media — for exactly the same reason that law firms should empower their people to use social media — connections and relationships.