In today’s technology age where social media reigns supreme, it seems our whole lives are consumed by the screens in front of us. Everywhere we turn, experts are telling us that we need to make more real-life connections in order to avoid depression and other virtual-life maladies. But for military spouses, real-life connections can be hard to find as we are constantly transitioning from one location to the next, uprooting ourselves and starting over every few years. That’s why social media, for us, is a true blessing. We use it for keeping in touch with friends we’ve made at each duty station and for sharing pictures of our kiddos with family far away. But some of us aren’t using social media to its full potential. If you’re not using it to cultivate an online sisterhood, you’re missing out!
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Online Friendships Are Instant Community
When Jennifer moved to a new military community she made a few friends and slowly started to settle in. But there was still something missing. A random chance landed her on a Facebook page for a month-long fitness challenge where daily accountability and posting was common and even expected. While at first she was slightly annoyed with her Facebook feed being overrun with posts from this challenge, within days she was seeing the benefits. She was inspired by strangers who were posting pictures of running through beautiful locations and working out despite all sorts of different challenges.
Then the feedback started coming. She started commenting on others’ posts and people were doing the same for hers. Slowly, through the online algorithms, certain names started appearing more often, and a bond, then a relationship, starting forming with these virtual strangers. By the end of the month she felt a deep kinship with many of them. The challengers created a year-long page to keep the fun going, and by the end of the year these strangers were meeting up in person and hugging like old friends. Jennifer says that the connection was deeper than she expected, and more meaningful than she could explain, and that these friendships that started out simply as names on a screen became a lifeline as she adjusted to a new life in a new town.
Jennifer’s experience isn’t uncommon. All across the internet virtual strangers are becoming actual friends because of shared interests and a camaraderie that forms from repeated posting and commenting. While these online groups are great for so many, they are especially beneficial for military spouses as we often find ourselves without a real community of our own each time we move. A virtual community will follow us no matter where we travel, and the continuity is something that can help ground us during times of transition and upheaval. It helps us find–and keep–our tribe even when we’re always on the move.
Online Sisterhoods Lift Us Up
The number one reason spouses look to these online groups is accountability and encouragement. They’re here to support us, motivate us, encourage us, help us, even teach us. Jennifer says that in an entire year of online posting, she never once saw a negative comment, only positive encouragement and mentorship that left her feeling inspired even after tough days. For those looking to accomplish something, the online group provides the daily check-in to ensure you’re working towards your goal. Jennifer loves that even when she’s a bit whiny, people still try to keep her looking towards the positive.
Sarah used local neighborhood and school pages on Facebook to find her online tribe when she moved to a civilian subdivision an hour from the nearest military base. Without the immediate community of living on base, she found that a quick question thrown to the group would result in where to find the best dentist for her kids, the family’s new favorite pizza place, and that the critter they found on the back porch was harmless (even if it was scary-looking!). She also joined a neighborhood book club after repeated online conversations with other group members. Making these connections with your actual neighbors is sometimes easier with the buffer of a virtual presence, since you don’t always see your neighbors during the day.
Whether we’re looking for friendship, accountability, information, or even education, these online groups can help fill the void we have when we move. Book clubs, mom’s groups, workout groups, local military spouse pages, school-specific pages, higher-education or career pages can all offer feedback and friendship when we’re struggling to find it in person. Resources like our own Daily Mom Military community groups are great places to get started on tapping into some of these resources and communities and can set us up for real success via a virtual route. And once we’ve found our group, the more we post, the more we share, the more we engage with others, the more we find ourselves fitting into a spot where we were always meant to be. It’s incredible how close friendships that were established online can become, especially if we see the same names showing up day after day. And given how much we move around in the military, we have pretty good odds of crossing actual paths with our virtual friends along the way, which only cements the online friendships further.
Even though real-world friendships are critical for mental health and well-being, there is a place for these virtual communities. Military spouses know how to make the most of any connections we make, and we are well-versed in the short-term lifespan of some of the face-to-face moments together. When we once again pack up our lives and drive away from our tribe, online friendships forge a global online sisterhood that is the next-best thing to having your actual squad always in your living room!
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