Creating Community through Social Media
Back when I first met my husband, I was completely green to military life and very displaced from it while working in the corporate world at my first post-college job. I was only introduced to him because his parents also happened to work at the same company and he was visiting the office on his last day home of leave.
We started dating shortly thereafter. As is my nature, I started scouring the web for anything and everything I could find about the military, his branch of Service, the acronyms he used, his duty station, the ranking structure, etc. I also accidentally stumbled upon a community of military girlfriends and spouses like myself, all posting questions and providing answers for each other- many of which aligned with my own questions. The web page had a pink camouflage background, and right away I knew it was the type of place for me: a friendly, newbie resource with good people and oodles of information.
Communities like this are pretty common around the web. Just do a quick search by typing your branch of Service, your relationship (i.e., wife, girlfriend, fiancée), and something like “community,” “group,” or “forum” into the search box. Not every community is for every person, but after a little digging you can definitely find a good fit for you!
So that type of forum for asking questions and getting answers is where I started. From there, I jumped over to my favorite social networking site and found dozens of groups and pages related to our branch of Service and location, and I was able to make new friends, both “virtual” and virtual-turned-real-life. In fact, most of the relationships I’ve formed since becoming a service member’s significant other have started online. Many of them have remained “virtual” friends, but I also make a point to try to meet the ones nearby.
I met one of my closest military spouse friends through this type of community. We were both dating our service members at the time. We connected because we both lived far away from the duty station where our boyfriends were stationed. They actually worked together, but because her boyfriend was enlisted longer and ranked higher than mine, fraternization rules meant they couldn’t hang out. That didn’t stop us, though. We remained close when they deployed, and even travelled to meet each other in person and spend time together. They have since gotten out of the military, but we still keep in touch. They just had a baby this summer and we sent some cute little camouflage onesies to them. See? Social networking really can lead to fulfilling and lasting relationships!
I know I’ve touched upon blogging before, but it really is a wonderful way to make friends and meet new people. Blogging allows you the opportunity to open up to others in a way that can’t be done in 140 characters or less. Writing posts and commenting on other’s stories can lead to genuine connections, and sometimes it’s just so nice to know others are listening and you aren’t just talking to yourself. Those stories can really make a difference in other people’s lives, and it gives some people that sense of community they may be missing in real life.
There are a couple of points to keep in mind when joining social media communities, no matter what platform. These are the top three things I always keep in mind to make it more meaningful and fun, and to avoid it becoming stressful and snarky.
Avoid the drama. There are always going to be those girls who are just as snarky online as they are in person. Don’t get involved. Don’t indulge them. After all, you know what they say about karma.
Contribute what you know. No one wants to hear someone going off or answering a question about what they think is right or they think they know. Stick to the facts, unless it’s a matter of opinion.
If someone makes a mistake, gently correct them. Keep in mind that not everyone has the same background as you. If someone writes something that is wrong or misinformed, don’t bash them. Just correct them or point them to a better resource and move on.
How have you used social media to create a sense of community? Is there a website, social group, or blog that keeps you connected? Feel free to share in the comments below!