Military Life

Facebook, Skype, and Snapchat…OH MY!

Go ahead, send my friends to the opposite ends of the Earth! I’ve got my tool belt full of modern marvels in communication to keep them close to me!

It is no secret between military families that the majority of us jump start our lives every few years. We take those trusted jumper cables from the trunk of our car and jolt some life altering bolts into our lives and move somewhere new. With that constant stream of change comes a lot of uncertainty.

One of those uncertainties is clouding my life right now. The idea that in the next six months, I am losing some of my dearest military family friends to the doom and gloom of PCS. From Poland to Italy. From Washington, D.C., to Bahrain. From the Pacific Northwest to an Air Station in the middle of nowhere. All of these places have military installations that need my friends and their families, and I have found myself progressively getting down about it.

A lot can happen in a person’s life in two or three years, or in some cases even five years. Bonds are established. Life events are shared. In the last couple of years I have been privileged to bare witness to three weddings, four new military brats being born, six military retirements, several military balls and too many birthdays to count. These events are what bonds an in-person relationship which gives us the grounded foundation that a lot of us rely on to endure the sacrifices that come with being a military family.

I say in-person friends because that is the light at the end of tunnel in this regards. We live in a technological age that allows for us to maintain friendships in ways that no one would have imagined even a decade ago or several decades ago. Military spouse and military daughter, Lori Johnson, reflects on how she kept in touch with friends and family when she was growing up as an Air Force kid. “I had to write letters, place them in an envelope, put a stamp on it and put it in the mailbox and then lift the flag to alert the mailman that a letter needed to go out.”


CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?  [Insert emoji with surprise eyes, because we have emojis now.]

Johnson added that “In addition to writing letters (which often took 4 to 6 weeks to receive), we communicated once a month for 15 designated minutes on the MARS (Military Air Radio Station) line. It was similar to walkie-talkies with a military operator monitoring the call, much like Lily Tomlin’s phone operator character Ernestine. We would have to say ‘over’ every time we finished a sentence.”

If you aren’t familiar with the Lily Tomlin reference, Google it. You’ll thank me later.

According to Military One Source’s 2015 Demographics Report, 64.9 percent of military spouses are under the age of 35. If I were a betting man, I would bet that the majority of those folks would be using that surprised face emoji right about now. So at this point I start to realize that I don’t have it quite so bad right? Nope, I am not quite there yet. Still feeling like I am going to be losing a piece of my heart when they all go.

But then I heard Mary Dyel Nielson’s story of using social media to develop and maintain relationships and my heart warms up a bit more. She writes,”It’s a pretty wild concept to know how strong some of my relationships are with spouses I only met in person a year or two after we became friends on Facebook. Women I have met through helping them to research our area as their PCS loomed ahead. I love how technology and social media have allowed us to help each other when being there physically just wasn’t in the cards.”


I’M STARTING TO FEEL BETTER

But really though, I am going to miss out on so much!

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and now Snapchat have given us the opportunity to keep up with our friend’s lives without having to be next door to them. Everything from scrolling through an album of photos from your friend’s birthday party, to whether or not their kids have a two-hour school delay because of snow, you get to bear witness to the happenings of their lives. So when you do have a Skype chat and talk about those things you can have a sense that you aren’t so far away from their lives, and vice versa.

I have to keep reminding myself of this! I don’t have to wait 4 to 6 weeks for a letter to arrive letting me know how my friend is doing. I can get instant updates! I can see pictures of their kids growing up. I can use my military spouse subject matter expert networks to help find assistance if something happens and my friend is in need. I can still talk smack with my football buddies (#broncobuddies for life yo). I can still be relevant to them. I won’t be forgotten!

THIS DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO LIVE ON YOUR COMPUTER!

While using social media and these communication tools to talk to and interact with our friends across the globe, it is still critical to develop new relationships. “I love how technology gives us the chance to keep in touch; however, we need local, in person, friends too. We need emergency contacts, we need the human connection. I love that I have friends all over the world, but I need those local, personal connections,” said Air Force Spouse Susan Reynolds.

I couldn’t agree more with Susan. Sometimes a real life happy hour with people can be just want the doctor ordered. So let’s make a commitment to use theses modern marvels of ways to stay in touch with our nearest and dearest but get out and fill your days with new members of your tribe.

Brian L. Alvarado is a Navy spouse stationed at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. He is a real estate executive, gadget geek, amateur kitchen genius, and self proclaimed style icon. But mostly he is a proud husband to his Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Petty Officer. You can reach him via twitter at @boinsd

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