A New Relationship Between Social Media and the Military Community

by: Chad Orras

For decades, veterans in the military have had to deal with biases and stigmas on how they should handle themselves once they leave the military and return to everyday life. This has created a sense of urgency when it comes to the overall mental health of veterans and military members. Additionally, resources for these individuals is limited and varied once they leave the military. There is a lack of formal direction from the military on mental health issues. The minimal direction and communication efforts have created a spiral of silence within the military community. However, a great introduction and relationship have come into play in recent years.

Military community meet social media; social media meet the military community.

In 2017, the US government began creating conversations with different social platforms like Twitter and Facebook to help create better avenues for military members when it comes to mental health awareness. These individuals have been posting the real-world issues they have been experiencing along with the struggles that have come with post active duty life. One specific military member is Major Andrew Fox within the British military. He has consistently advocated a better way for military members to integrate their experiences more to heal themselves via Twitter. Fox also stated, “instead of someone having a bad day and feeling angry and stressed, [soldiers] will at least have a better understanding of what part of their brain is making them feel that way. When that goes forward into a combat situation…you then have commanders and soldiers who can look out for each other a little bit better.”

This has sparked communication with all different members of the military community and creating forums for like-minded individuals to have conversations some thought was impossible.

As someone with military members in my family, I know from experience how important it was for them to find communities and be able to talk about the issues that have faced them. My cousin was able to find a community group on Facebook near his house, which created opportunities for friends and a new job. It is no longer a stigma for military members to hide their emotions and mental issues. As Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated, “The foundation of connection is dialogue.” While there has been an increase in the treatment centers, the main problem is getting those treatments to the people that need them.

I feel like this is still a very new relationship and will take time for it to mature. However, it has created more awareness and has given veterans a way to express what they have been keeping in for so long. The most difficult part is preventing the breaking point for these individuals. So, the question then becomes what direction does this relationship need to take to make the next step? There have been positive steps, but it hasn’t been enough to become a full success. These veterans have sacrificed their lives for their countries and deserve a chance to fix themselves. The conversation has started, but the continued awareness and bravery of veterans to speak out publicly about their obstacles mentally will help others who feel they are alone. These communities are still new, but with the help of respective governments to make this a priority could forever change the standard approach that has affected so many.

by: Chad Orras (Twitter)

This Article Has 8 Comments
  1. Michael Robelli says:

    I love this. And I specifically appreciate when you ask what’s next, as there could always be more done in this department. I think that it would be valuable if veterans could not only communicate with one another, but even mental health professionals via this platform. Then they could have the more informal conversations, or seek more formal assistance to help reestablish them into general society. Overall, I appreciate your interest in this; my grandfather served in the Navy, and if he wasn’t so anti-technology, I’m sure he’d love this!

  2. Student says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I think that reducing the negative stigma behind the military, military families and the issues regarding veteran mental health is very important erspecially because people tend to have such strong feeling regarding the military topic on social media. I believe that with proper introduction, the stigma can improve and veterans can get more access to resources and mental health help because you are right, as of now the issue is very heated and can be quite controversial. It seems that every view leans one way and is very extreme.

  3. Mary Edman says:

    I think what is interesting about all of this is the fact that soldiers shift from having a majority of what they say monitored and not really being able to express their opinion especially if they disagree with the government in any way to having the whole world of social media wide open to them.
    I went to undergrad right near the US Air Force Academy and as soon as they were released from campus for the weekend it was like a whole new world for them. They were able to rebel against the strict rules that are had on campus. I think it is important for people to be able to express themselves especially while going through a tough time, which is why I think these communities are great but I also worry that veterans will still hold back because they aren’t used to this type of freedom. Hopeful that it will continue to grow and veterans will continue to discuss their difficulties to form relationships.

  4. Mary Edman says:

    This is an interesting topic and I think very relevant at this moment. I think what is interesting is while soldiers serve they must be very aware of what they are saying and they have to keep any controversial opinions to themselves but then once they are veterans they have access to a whole new world of social media. They are suddenly able to post their opinions for the world to hear.
    I went to undergrad right next door to the US Air Force Academy and it was even interesting to see the changes that happened to the cadets when they were allowed off campus on the weekends. They changed into different people who suddenly had access to the outside world. I feel like it is a similar affect for veterans when they suddenly can publicize opinions on media. It is good to see communities like these forming, which I think is Facebook’s intention with their new push for them. It is important for people with like experiences to have a safe place to share them and find others that are relatable to them.
    Good read!

  5. Jillian Fraccola says:

    This is a very pressing issue because there are so many veterans coming home that have lived their whole adult life in a community setting. Whether they enlist after high school or graduate from college and become an officer, their existence is defined by their assigned military unit and its members. They eat, sleep, and train together and don’t know anything else. They are constantly surrounded by a group of people that will literally take a bullet for each other. After retirement, it is so difficult to recreate that community in the civilian world. I think social media groups can be the first step for a veteran to find a community of people that understand what they have gone through and what they are going through, but it should lead to an opportunity for in person contact. After spending their life surrounded by thier unit members, it could probably feel isolating not having that comradery. Social media can be the platform to allow veterans to be comfortable to reach out for support.

  6. Ty Hancock says:

    Military mental health is an extremely important topic. These individuals have sacrificed their time away from friends, family, and normal civilian life to serve their respective countries. I think it’s great that you highlighted the fact that there are military personnel leading the charge by posting their stories and thoughts to social media. This should be the case. We (as civilians) don’t really know what it is like to be in their situation, and thus, it’s hard for us to tell them how they should and shouldn’t communicate. We don’t know the extent of their experiences, whether remarkable or the lack thereof. Social media provides a great outlet to communicate honestly. As for the next step, can the military incorporate social media classes such as the one in which we are currently engaged? Could the VA begin to discuss the benefits of connecting with other like-minded individuals during treatment or therapy sessions? This could theoretically help to recreate a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood/family that is so prevalent in platoons, squads, divisions, and other military units.

  7. Trevor Shott says:

    This was a very interesting read. Social media is so powerful in the sense that it can cause a ton of damage, but when used positively it can cause so much good. It is extremely encouraging to hear of all the good ways that it has been able to help veterans and mental health. Like you said, social media makes it possible for communication to occur between people in geographically different areas, but who are going through similar experiences and just need someone to talk to. The fact that they are also able to find communities that are close to each other and can meet in person is also amazing. Being able to encourage the sharing of emotions and how people are feeling is much needed in today’s society, especially among the military community and it’s great to hear that social media is helping to achieve this.

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