For military spouses enduring deployments in this complicated world of internet-based communications and 24/7 news, is ignorance bliss, or is knowledge power?
My husband’s last deployment was over a decade ago. Facebook was gaining popularity, but we didn’t use social media yet. And the Skype connection was so bad, we scrapped it as a means of communication early on. It was too hard on the kids, calling them to the computer to talk to their Daddy, only to have the screen freeze up.
We found our groove through frequent emails, monthly packages and letters, and a telephone call every few weeks. Looking back, I surprised myself with how well I handled the year-long separation. I know that my ability to cope was, in part, due to the lack of information at my disposal. I was, most certainly, in the “ignorance is bliss” camp.
Also, I was the kind of person that needed to do what I needed to do, without input from my husband. The lack of communication actually helped me accept my increased responsibilities and take control of our home life.
But that deployment might as well have been eons ago in terms of technology. Frankly, I am clueless about how active duty spouses experience deployments today. My internet research suggests that new technology has played a largely positive role. But to find out for myself, I reached out to a military spouse Facebook group to ask, “Has advanced communication technology made deployments better or worse?”
Of the 24 military spouses who responded to my post, ten were enthusiastically in favor of using Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, iMessage, Marco Polo, texting, cell phone calls — any means necessary to stay in frequent contact.
“Honestly idk if my relationship would have survived well without modern technology. My wife and I are dual military. Well over half of our relationship has been long distance. I think all the communication channels are fantastic.”
“I can’t imagine deployments without social media…it literally saved my sanity being able to chat as often as we did.”
“[S]ocial media has made it easier to keep families together, help milspouses struggling with deployments and children feel connected to mom or dad.”
Five other spouses responded with mixed feelings.
“ I can see how it can make things better and worse. Better because of easier/more communication, worse because that volume of communication becomes expected and when it’s not there it hurts.”
“As a in betweener, haha, I've seen the good and bad on both sides. And see how both can hurt, help, and hinder a relationship.”
“On one hand it’s good because it’s so much easier to stay in touch… but on the other hand I think we’ve become so reliant on technology to communicate with our spouses it’s extremely difficult when you aren’t able to.”
“Some days I love being able to talk to my husband a short time every day, and it helps keeping him involved with the kids and major decisions. However, sometimes … [t]he constant communication just reiterates how far away they are.”
Six wives were “old school” like me.
“I think today there can be TOO MUCH communication… some people become to dependent on it. If there’s a ‘blackout’ of coms for any reason people lose it.”
“I think it makes it worse because you get mad when it doesn’t work or frustrated that they aren’t constantly talking to you.”
“It was actually easier not knowing if and when he would contact me because no pattern developed … if he missed calling me or messaging me that evening my mind didn't automatically jump to ‘oh my gosh he’s dead.’”
Two were sub wives who informed us, without any happy face emojis, that “technology hasn’t advanced our forms of communication,” explaining that when there isn’t a total blackout, they communicate through a prescreened “screwy email system.”
And one Navy wife quipped comically, “Video calls on a ship are the stuff of fantasy and unicorns and fairies and junk. Good luck with that phone call not randomly dropping in mid sentence, too.”
What did I learn from this Facebook group? The more things change, the more they stay the same.