Once upon a time, the holiday season brought increased volumes of mail to our servicemen and women serving overseas. But these days, mail sent “over there,” has taken on a whole new meaning, thanks to social media sites like Facebook and online video phone services like Skype.
Just how significantly social media networks and fast Internet connections are changing what it means to be deployed to a war zone is something the military is now studying, according to a recent news report by USA Today.
Many servicemen and women claim that online services like Facebook and Skype make serving in remote parts of the world more tolerable because they allow almost daily interactions with family and friends. But the military is also concerned that they may be distractions that could have deadly consequences; hence the study.
“No other military in the history of warfare has had that level of access to their families,” said Benjamin Karney, a social psychologist who studies marriage and family relationships in the military, in an interview with USA Today. Karney is one of three researchers involved in a three-year study for the Department of Defense (DOD), which is tracking how military families handle stress before, during and after deployments.
According to Karney, the DOD wants to find out if online access to family members strengthens family bonds and eases the post-deployment transition to civilian life or whether it might distract servicemen and women from their mission and expose pre-existing problems in their personal lives.
Not surprisingly, Karney suspects the answer might be a little of both.