It’s deployment, and your search for friends and support leads you to a Facebook group for the spouses or parents in your service member’s unit. Perfect! These people are sure to understand the challenges you are facing during deployment, because they are going through it at the same time, right?
Well, not necessarily.
Once you join the group, you may be disappointed to learn that the page is full of drama. You ask a simple question, but people make fun of you and complain about OPSEC. Someone shares how happy they are to receive a phone call from their loved one. . . and immediately everyone is jealous and complaining about how little contact they have with their deployed service member. A joyful fiancee shares a photo of some flowers she received, but is asked to take it down so it won’t offend other girlfriends and wives.
What is happening here? Is this a support group or a military spouse shaming page?
The problem with Facebook groups during deployment is that they can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, other spouses and family members from your service member’s unit are the best place to get accurate deployment information because they know the unit, the base, and the commanding officers. On the other hand, these families are struggling with the same deployment challenges you face, and they may have very little patience for holding your hand and walking your through your problems. How can you make the most of your unit Facebook groups without letting the page dissolve into drama? Try following these online tips.
10 etiquette tips for Facebook groups during deployment
- Use Google first. No one wants to do Google searches for you, especially if that is all it takes to answer your question. If you have a general question about a local business, restaurant, or attraction, do your own research first. Then, if you have a more specific question that only a military spouse would know, ask it on the page.
- Always remember OPSEC. Yes, the group has information about deployment dates. No, they should never discuss these online. Even private Facebook groups are not secure from hackers and terrorists. No one wants to endanger the homecoming date because you posted, “Are they still coming back a month from today?” or “My husband says they will be at X base tomorrow, so get ready for Skype!” If you need to check a date or location, don’t post it in a group. Contact the group admin privately or email your unit’s FRG or FRO. They will have official answers, not rumors.
- Don’t spread rumors. While we are on the subject, always consider the source of information before you post it. Did it come directly from the commanding officer? Then it is probably accurate. From anyone else, it is subject to change. Even if your spouse has shared a timeline or training plan with you, don’t discuss that online. It could get you or your spouse into serious trouble. It is always better to wait than to overreact and look stupid.
- Use the page’s files. Most groups have a lot of useful information, phone numbers, and base resources listed in the group’s files or photos. Try finding answers to your questions there first. You don’t want to be the 15th person today who has asked, “What is the phone number for the FRG?”
- Deployment experiences may vary. Even on the same deployment, the troops are not always together in one location and don’t have equal access to the Internet. You may get a lot of phone calls, while someone else is getting none. Try to be sensitive of others’ situations.
- Don’t brag about your service member. Yes, every military spouse and parent is proud of their service member. But since every person on that Facebook page currently has a deployed love one, use common sense when you want to brag about yours. It’s fine to share a sweet message about them or a photo of a gift they sent. . . on your own personal Facebook page. Don’t use a group page to air anything about your relationship or to make others jealous.
- Don’t whine about the deployment. Since everyone on the page is going through the same deployment, don’t use this group to vent or complain about how long it feels. You won’t get much sympathy. If you had a particularly bad day, need emergency help, or genuinely want help, then go ahead and share that. Otherwise, put it on your personal page.
- If someone bothers you, keep scrolling. We don’t always agree with everyone, and that’s okay. But there’s no need to pick a fight with another family in your unit. If someone’s question or flower picture annoys you, don’t get bitter and sarcastic. Just move on. You’ll be glad you avoided drama, and everyone else on the page will appreciate it, too.
- Don’t compare, compete, or condemn. If this is your first deployment, it may seem like the worst and hardest thing in your life. But chances are, someone else on the page went through a combat deployment with no communication, or gave birth alone, or once got the phone call that their spouse was wounded. Things can always be harder. Don’t waste time comparing or competing with each other. Instead, try to be helpful and encouraging.
- Don’t try to sell stuff. The quickest way to get kicked out of a Facebook group is by spamming it with your direct sales business. Respect group rules or check with an admin before posting an ad for your product. It may be permitted on certain threads or on a particular day of the week.
By Lizann Lightfoot
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.