Navigating Facebook Groups as a New Military Spouse
In 2019, I think it’s safe to say that nearly every person who has a Facebook account has joined at least one Facebook group. There seems to be a Facebook group for everything these days and the military spouse community is no stranger to them. There are Facebook groups depending on what post you’re at (I know Fort Benning has at least four different ones), Facebook groups for mothers in specific branches, and even Facebook groups for specific issues, like PCSing and decorating military housing. The sheer number of Facebook groups for military spouses can be overwhelming, especially when you’re a new military spouse.
As soon as my husband found out where we would be going following West Point, I pulled up the Facebook groups list for both Fort Benning and Fort Wainwright. I remember thinking, “Well the West Point groups have all been amazing, I’m sure these will be too!” and while military spouse Facebook groups can be filled with tons of great information and resources for new military spouses, they can also be filled with a lot of junk to sift through to find what you’re actually looking for. I also remember being terrified to post in one of the larger groups simply because of the sheer volume of members.
As a new military spouse, it also doesn’t take you long at all to realize that military spouse Facebook groups have a reputation for being full of drama. I think that goes without saying for any part of the internet these days but in my short time as a military spouse, I have quickly come to realize that there are some military spouse Facebook groups that are better than others. One particularly nasty situation I witnessed in a group that I’m in is basically the reason I decided to write this post.
Being a new military spouse is filled with uncharted territory. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, lost, and even hopeless when you transition into life as a military spouse. So today I wanted to chat with you all about navigating Facebook groups as a new military spouse, specifically. Don’t worry, there will also be a little note on Facebook groups for the veteran military spouses too because I think this post is something that every military spouse should read and, let’s be honest, maybe even study. To start off, here are a few tips about using military spouse Facebook groups:
Tips for Using Military Spouse Facebook Groups
1. Research OPSEC and PERSEC
I know, I know, another acronym you have to remember right? Well as a military spouse OPSEC and PERSEC are probably two of the most important acronyms to remember. OPSEC basically just means Operational Security while PERSEC is personal security. So to break it down a little bit OPSEC would be anything related to your spouse's job (or even yours if you’re military or work for the military in some capacity) while personal security would pertain directly to just you and your family. I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON THIS so if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask your spouse who can probably find you better information than anything you read on the internet. That being said, this Army powerpoint that I found on Google has a great breakdown of safe vs unsafe posts when it comes to social media. Remember, just because you join a Facebook group for military spouses doesn’t mean the people in that group are vetted so just be aware of the information you’re putting out there about yourself, your family, etc.
2. Always read the rules (and actually follow them!)
I cannot stress enough how important it is to read the rules of a group before and after joining it. This should honestly be common sense but it seems like some people don’t even bother. I really shouldn’t have to explain why reading the rules is important but there may be certain nuances, especially when you’re in spouse groups for specific posts, that a rule has been created for. For example, the military spouse Facebook groups that I frequent have a “No Sales Posts” policy. I’m all for people using MLM companies they believe in to make a living (heck, I’ve even tried it myself) but we don’t need to see 100 different posts in a group that is supposed to be a place to find information. I know it’s annoying but if you’re planning on posting frequently within any Facebook group that you’re in, please do yourself and everyone else a favor and read the rules!
3. Familiarize yourself with the administrators (and don’t be afraid to contact them)
When you join a Facebook group, you are able to go to the members tab and see exactly who the admins and moderators are. It’s good to familiarize yourself with their names or at least know where to find the information in case you ever need to get in contact with them about an issue. On a similar note, don’t be afraid to contact the admins if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, notice comments getting out of hand, etc. These people work for free and with over 5,000 people in some of these groups, it’s virtually impossible for them to see everything!
4. Try using Google first or search within the Facebook group itself before posting
How many times have you read a question and thought, “why don’t you just Google it?” Maybe it’s just me but I try to Google everything before asking because you can usually find the answer. That being said, these military spouse Facebook groups were created to be a source for information so it’s natural to want to go straight to the source. If you’re asking a fairly popular question, however, I recommend checking out the search feature within the Facebook group before writing a post. Sometimes the Facebook group search feature works better from an actual computer but it’s worth a shot, especially if you think the question you have is likely one that’s been asked before. However, if you can’t find any recent information or have follow up questions, don’t hesitate to ask after doing a little research.
5. Try to avoid controversial topics
“I don’t want to start drama but…” or “I know this is controversial but…” is never a good way to start a post in a military spouse Facebook group (or like any Facebook group for that matter). If you want to ask about why people choose not to vaccinate their children, write that on your personal Facebook. A military spouse group is not the place to crowdsource information and opinions on controversial topics. My general rule of thumb for this type of things is if you wouldn’t talk about it at the dinner table, maybe don’t post about it in a Facebook group.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
When it comes to military life, the only dumb question is an unasked one. Save that for later, use it as your life motto, whatever you do just remember it! Regardless of whether or not you think someone is going to laugh at you (looking at you, seasoned military spouses) don’t be afraid to ask your question, no matter how “dumb” it may seem to you. The last thing I want to see as a military spouse is other young military spouses going through life completely blind because they were afraid to ask questions. Even if you’re afraid to ask questions within a military spouse Facebook group, find a military spouse you trust and apply the same rule of thumb.
7. Try to take negative comments with a grain of salt
In a digital age, we’re no strangers to seeing negativity on the internet. It’s honestly everywhere these days. But where it’s sometimes so shocking to see such negativity is in these military spouse Facebook groups. When navigating Facebook groups as a new military spouse, it’s important to not take those negative comments to heart. Whether you’re researching your next duty station, asking about hospital experiences or even just asking about restaurants, there’s bound to be ten negative comments for every positive one. What’s that saying about people always being more vocal about the bad things? I have specific experience with this from both researching our next duty station and researching the on-post hospital where I’ll be delivering in April. But I always try my best to seek out the positive experiences aside from just the negative ones because ultimately, sometimes we can’t change things like the duty station we’re headed to and we have to make the most of it.
The negative comment thing leads me to my final point of writing this post. A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through Facebook when I noticed a recent post that was getting a lot of comments (I don’t spend a lot of time scrolling through the groups that I’m in so this is the only way I typically see a post). I wanted to investigate the post because the question (obviously asked by a very young and new military spouse) was something I had also heard about this particular duty station. The comments I read in response to her asking a simple question were disheartening. As military spouses, there are a select few people who understand what we go through on a daily basis. We should be constantly working to support each other instead of tearing others down (especially new spouses!). I know I’m still fairly new to the whole military spouse thing but I would never say to this poor woman what some of the commenters were saying. I just wanted to leave this as a reminder to any of the more seasoned military spouses out there who read this and all of my fellow gals who are in their first few years as military spouses to always be kind when answering a question and try to be as helpful as possible. There is one woman who routinely follows up by including her personal email and inviting spouses to get in contact with her when they arrive at the duty station. That is how we should focus on serving each other, rather than focusing on negativity.