Impact of social media on the Army

The military’s different & isolated ecosystem makes it a unique organisation, due to which, it gets affected in varying ways as compared to the society. Mobile technology & mobile access to the Internet has given today’s soldier access to Social Media without being home/ office bound to computers. This has somewhat unshackled the soldier & brought him not just closer to the world but has made it possible to interact with it. It has soaked through not just social but also his professional life.

Social Media, while providing the soldier a feeling of being always connected to family, friends & the world, removes the feeling of isolation. At the same time, it also brings the family problems right into his face in near real time. Social Media has enabled the soldier to experience events happening at home literally first hand, which has added to the existing complex psychological environment. Excessive use of the same is also known to cause addiction wherein if the individual spends prolonged hours on Social Media, it can negatively impact his physical as well as social behaviour.

Extreme cases of SM may use adversely affect the individual’s decision-making capability which may even drive him to commit crimes. In military environment, where group dynamics are very strong & espirit-de-corps as well as camaraderie are nurtured, on occasions it can act as a catalyst for promoting group psychological manifestations whether positive or negative leading to an emotive upsurge. The ability to connect with your team also provides a sense of security & commonality of purpose to a group or organisation.

In earlier times, owing to the confinement of the soldier to units/cantonments, his exposure to the society, news, etc, was screened. However, now the telephones & internet have systematically broken these walls. Social Media platforms have virtually brought the society & world to the soldier’s fingertips. This change has made serious demands on troops’ social skills & adaptive ability to cope with this complex environmental transition.

As it is getting increasingly difficult to monitor, censor & control the flow of information, the concept of security has been altered.  However, Social Media allows easier access & enables the commanders & the organisation to reach out to a larger, wider audience as well as to command in an interactive & contemporary manner. The ability to connect also provides a platform to collaborate & synergise the efforts of widely separated individuals, entities & organisations.

The ability to connect & broadcast information at the flick of a button makes the command also susceptible to misinformation, subversion & panic. It breeds indiscipline & has the capability to tarnish the image of the organisation. The human rights violations by US soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison are a case in point. The families have now become a de-facto part of the organisation even during operational deployments, as they are more aware of the happenings in the units/organisations on a real time basis.

The media personnel have become increasingly aware of the information flow across the social media platforms and channels. More importantly each individual & potentially every soldier has now become a virtual reporter. Consequently, every person without adequate knowledge of the background of a situation or its likely impact, uploads posts as he sees the events happening or as he personally perceives them. It has become a challenge for the commanders & leaders to manage this change & its consequent impact. Excessive time on Social Media in extreme cases has also become one of the leading factors resulting in efficiency reduction in units & sub units, and the same must be adequately tackled to ensure a balance between individual rights and military decorum.

Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of *SUBAH KASHMIR*

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