A recent survey found that more than one-third of military families reported they had no one to ask for a favor, suggesting many military families experience a sense of disconnection with the community in which they live.
Blue Star Families’ Military Family LifeStyle survey also found that military families report isolation as one of their most prominent stressors. It is easy to imagine the prominence of isolation is exacerbated in our overseas community where time differences and geographic distance can further isolate military families from their friends and family back home. Although all members of military families are at risk of experiencing isolation, military spouses might be at a particularly high risk of feeling lonely. Many military spouses have turned to social media groups to connect with others in the community who have shared experiences and concerns.
Social media can be a wonderful tool for connecting people, but sometimes these platforms can actually worsen the experience of loneliness. This is in part because people online have a tendency to behave differently than they would in face-to-face interactions. The norms online seem to differ from those that govern in-person interaction, which can cause a birth of toxicity in social media groups. This especially happens when the norms of certain groups take a turn toward aggressive and judgmental interactions between members.
When these toxic norms become prevalent in a group, social media goes from being a useful tool for spouses looking to connect with others to a platform that perpetuates feelings of isolation.
Importantly, when it comes to norms, the people help establish the culture, which means that each and every member plays an important role in creating an inclusive online community so members feel welcome and valued. One helpful acronym that can remind you to make a warm community for all participants is KIND:
Know the rules in the group that you are participating in and follow the norms set out by the administrators.
Interact as you would in a face-to-face interaction. Before you post something, take a moment to imagine yourself making the comment to someone at the commissary. If you would not say it to a stranger at the commissary, don’t say it online.
Notice other people’s behavior in the group and if you see concerning behavior, find a way to help by either:
- Directly intervening
- Delegating intervention to someone else by asking an administrator or peer to step in
- Distracting by turning the conversation away from the toxicity towards more helpful topics.
Don’t be afraid to report harmful comments or individuals who you notice are repeatedly behaving unkindly to others in the group. You can report concerning behavior to group administrators and if you witness potentially illegal behavior, call Security Forces at DSN 480-2050 or commercial 06371-47-2050.
Let’s remember, connected and inclusive communities are built when all members are KIND to one another online or in person.