Online Communities and Military Spouses: How a New Generation is Bridging the Gap

Deployment Problems Last year I was contacted by a lovely woman named Elizabeth who was writing a dissertation for grad school about the military spouse blogging community.  I happily agreed to take part and, once we figured out how to work around the time difference from here to London, we had a rather in depth phone conversation about blogging as a military spouse.  She kindly agreed to send me a copy of her paper once it was finished and I am not kidding when I tell  you that I read the ENTIRE thing and was beyond impressed with her findings and opinions based on what she discovered after talking to a number of us.

In short, blogging, Facebook and the entire online/internet phenomenon has changed how military spouses related to each other, connect, form friendships, and even how we view ourselves.

If you’d like to read her dissertation, you can do so HERE and I highly recommend that you do.

She was kind enough to write up a bit about what she found and is currently working on a expanding on her original thesis.  And don’t forget to take the survey she currently has open to help her out!  You can take it HERE if you are a military spouse who uses Facebook and is over 18 years old.

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It all started when I worked at the NICoE, a research, treatment and education facility for service members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. There, I was fortunate enough to meet families who’d seen it all, and still had smiles on their faces. Many of the spouses I interacted with blogged, leading me to wonder how this online activity impacted their real-life experiences.

When I got to the London School of Economics to start my masters, I chose this as the topic of my thesis. How do these women, who blog regularly about topics ranging from favorite recipes to health battles, use the internet as a way to connect with others like them? Is there a community growing around military spouse bloggers? How deep are the roots? Can actual, real friendships emerge from this online interaction?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably pretty aware of the answer. Of course they can! You probably have life-long friends you’ve met online. You likely spend a bit of time each week perusing the latest posts of people both well known and still unknown. And you definitely have felt, even just briefly, the support that this community of milspouse bloggers can provide. The internet, I found, provided an online space where milspouse bloggers connect and communicate in real time, as if they were sharing a cup of coffee at a cafe.

The problem is, academic research rarely looks at military spouses. Since 2001, there has been an increase in articles published about the metaphorical (and also very real) warrior, but the spouses who hold those worlds together, piecing together scraps of lives spread thin around the world, are often left unstudied. They remain (I argued) an “underrepresented minority” within academic literature. So, now I aim to make a small contribution toward fixing this biased representation. The results of my initial study are published here, on the LSE website: http://www.lse.ac.uk/[email protected]/research/mediaWorkingPapers/ElectronicMScDissertationSeries.aspx. (It’s number 107, under the year 2013.)

And now, I’m at it again. This year, I’m studying at the University of Southern California, and I’m expanding upon this initial research for my second thesis. (I swear I’m done with school after this!) I’m aiming to get as many responses as possible on a survey that looks at how milspouses use Facebook and Facebook groups to form even more relationships online. If you have 10 minutes and fit the very simple criteria (over 18, use Facebook, and are a military spouse), I’d love if you could take the survey here: https://usc.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_8CVt9ohnMCfW59j

Feel free to take it, and then pass it around! Any help getting as many responses before April 14 would be much appreciated. If you have any questions at all, you can contact me at [email protected]

As we say at USC, “fight on”. As the NICoE community taught me, “fair winds and following seas”. And from my heart, thank you for your service, even if it’s from your stateside home.