Recently in a Facebook group for spouses of USN Chief Petty Officers - we were discussing WHAT HAPPENED to in person spouses groups? Social activities and events? What was the big change? Where did we go WRONG?
We (seasoned, salty, old spouses... aka been around more than 10 years) see it all the time. A spouse pops up on a social media group:
"Hi I'm Suzy Que, we just moved to across the planet middle of nowhere base and I don't know anyone. I hate it here and am lonely. I hate the fill in branch of service you knew your husband was in when you married him here, and everyone here is horrible and mean."
Which is quickly followed by a plethora of offers from other spouses in that area for playdates, coffee dates, meet ups... all of which are turned down with random excuses as to why that will never work.
The person making the original post remains isolated and lonely, and those offering to help are often left feeling frustrated and confused.
For many military families it (the internet) is one of our only connections to our family back home. At least that's what we tell ourselves. For others its a great way to make new friends. Or it seems that way.
Can the virtual connections you make online truly become lasting relationships, or has social media become the new "real world"?
I'm going to argue that in order to be a true friend, a REAL friend you must step away from the keyboard, put yourself out there and build a face to face relationship.
The hard part?
Well, I don't know about you, but when I go out to meet new people I usually try to look my best (or at least presentable). I think about my kids behaving or perhaps having to find a sitter. I worry about making a good first impression - that's a lie - I don't really care. Either you like me or you don't, BUT - I am quite literally not normal. My point?
When you "socialize" through social media you don't have to get dressed, you don't have to keep the kids quiet... hell you don't have to brush your teeth (gross if you are reading this and haven't brushed your teeth seriously go fix yourself. I'll wait).
There is a bit of risk in meeting someone for coffee the first time. They will see your facial expressions, read your body language - they may even judge you for something you say or do. There is emotional safety in the anonymity of an online persona. Some of us might find ourselves hiding behind that shield of digital protection, and in the end we will cost ourselves truly valuable assets. PEOPLE.
When you have the flu, your husband is deployed and your family is no less than 4 hours away. A facebook like isn't going to bring your kids dinner and never judge for a second the fact that the house is a mess.
When your grass is getting to long and you can't figure out WHAT THE HELL Murphy did to the mower THIS FREAKING TIME... a tweet isn't going to show you how to switch the fuel tanks and adjust the choke juuuuuuuust right to get 'er up and running.
You must build personal face to face relationships. When you do that you also build this magical thing that cannot be replaced with any keyboard, tablet, mobile device or mouse... TRUST. You have human beings that will come to your side, and you can trust with your darkest hours. You're not worried about what you look like because this IS NOT the first time they've laid their eyes on you. You don't care if the house is a mess because you've been to their house when its been a mess. Its not a big deal if you disagree on some things because you agree on the most important thing - you are FRIENDS.
So get on facebook and post something like "I'm going to X,Y,Z for coffee next tuesday, who's coming with me?" (if you're worried about PERSEC fine, send a message to 20 friends and roll out).
Want to meet people from the same command? Plan a pot luck or a play date. You don't have to rely on the FRG or command to bring people together. You can however let them know your hosting and ask them to put the word out.
THEN GET OFF FACEBOOK AND GO HAVE SOME FUN WITH ACTUAL LIVE HUMANS!!! One person might show up or twenty might pop in. Who cares? Take some time to talk, laugh and really invest in each other.
Do it again next week, and the week after and the week after (or well maybe once a month if you're less of a social butterfly) you'll be surprised how many people want to unplug and reconnect.
XO XO & Stuff,