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Social Media Smarts for Military Spouses

Being a military spouse is a bit like being the minister’s teenage kid – everyone expects you to be the perfect example of good behavior, self-discipline, and self-sacrifice. But hey, sometimes you just want to go into total meltdown mode!

Understandable. In fact, most of us have “been there, done that.” But today, it’s a lot easier to do some permanent damage to your spouse’s career – and your family’s well-being – by not being careful about where you have your total meltdown.

Social media environments like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are terrific ways to share all sorts of personal and professional information with those in your life, but it’s critically important to remember that in many cases those posts on Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites are pretty much out there for the rest of the world to see. And we’re talking for years to come – long enough to damage your spouse’s or your own reputation and career options for a lifetime.

(Note: You may think you’re protected by keeping questionable online behavior behind password-protected walls, but many potential employers are now demanding access to applicant’s Facebook passwords.)

The Military is a Big Community – but Also a Small One

Social media is fun and entertaining, but on the Internet, stupid lives  forever – as does hateful, obscene, arrogant, naked – all those momentary lapses in judgment that you hope no one remembers when your spouse is up for promotion or when you go to land a job. Like it or not, word gets around fast and your behavior and choices reflect immediately on your military spouse’s reputation.

In addition, in the military world it’s even more important to realize the potential impact of your online comments, because so much of what you innocently post as a momentary thought or irritation can be misinterpreted by others both inside and outside of the military community.

The Four Keys to Smart Social Media Use

How to avoid having your family’s military career derailed by online indiscretions?

Recognize that online tools are incredibly powerful, whether for boosting or sinking careers. In a positive light, a blog that showcases your personal, professional or community interests and expertise will demonstrate your maturity and start building a positive reputation among your military “family.” A Facebook page or Twitter feed that promotes your passions and activities in a positive way will help confirm that you’re a mature and intelligent person. Not only will this reflect positively on your military spouse and his or her career opportunities, it will also help you lay the groundwork for your own future career, should you want one. Today, 90 percent of hiring managers will check out an applicant online before deciding whether or not to interview that person.

If it’s embarrassing and it can be posted online, it probably will be. And that includes photos friends take of you via cell phone and post online. So let your friends know that because you’re part of the military community, it’s important that they respect your need for privacy – and then try to avoid doing those things in public that are most likely to end up going viral!

Realize that often you don’t know the person you’re talking to, or who they might talk to. Keep in mind that often you may have no idea of rank in a social setting, but disrespecting the wrong person can have a terrible outcome if he/she turns out to be the spouse of your spouse’s commanding officer. Whether it’s at the soccer game, the PTA meeting, or a social get-together, be especially careful to treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy. Not only is it simply the right thing to do, it also saves you from having to figure out how to (if possible) undo the damage of careless, thoughtless words or actions once you’ve behaved poorly or posted snarky comments about someone. And that goes double for online discussions!

Lastly, keep those meltdown moments face-to-face rather than online. Blow off steam and enjoy a good rant whenever you need to, but do it privately, in the company of trusted friends, where you know for certain that your words won’t live on for others to see or misinterpret.

The old saying used to be “loose lips sink ships,” that is, sailors speaking carelessly in bars could divulge information that the enemy could use to devastating effect. In today’s online world, we might say “thoughtless comments sink careers” – doesn’t rhyme nearly as well, but still pretty important!

For Military Spouses
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