Is Social Media Central to Everyday Military Life?
Social media use among members of the Armed Forces is so routine and everyday that it is ‘part and parcel’ of a host of daily, mundane, banal, everyday actions that are becoming central to military life.
This finding emerged from the User Strand of the DUN Project where we conducted focus groups with military personnel of all ranks and ages. In these groups, our participants talked about their social media use as ‘taken for granted’ and central to other daily routines and everyday actions that are un-conscious and un-thought. As a result, there was little – if any – distinction between what we might term their ‘offline’ or ‘online’ behaviors. Rather, in accordance with what others have termed ‘onlife’[i], their social media use was ubiquitous, mundane and banal.
It was also apparent that for all of our participants ‘doing’ social media – what we term here practice – and the object through which these practices occur (mobile devices, smartphones) were as important, if not more so, than the content of their social media communications. They clearly told us, for example, that they ‘loved’ their mobile devices – ‘I love it’, ‘I’ve got to admit I do love it’, ‘I love my phone like it’s a family member’ ‘I lost my phone last week it was like my left arm had been chopped off’, ‘My phone is my life’ ‘I do everything on it’ – suggesting an emotive connection to their mobile device that extends beyond the ability to communicate through them. The practices of ‘checking in’, tagging, posting, swiping, reaching for the mobile phone and posting updates were all actions that were meaningful and pleasurable in themselves and indicative of a desire to utilize the objects beyond communication. It is these practices, and the everydayness of them that also indicates how and why their social media use has become ubiquitous and mundane.
What is especially important about these accounts of social media is that whilst they are far from unique to the military, it would seem that military personnel’s use of mobile technologies and social media apps is so widespread and done ‘with little thought’ that it is becoming ‘part and parcel’ of everyday military life. This has critical implications for how the risks of social media can be managed within the defence community.
These findings will be published in a forthcoming article in the journal Media, Culture and Society entitled ‘Digital Mundane, Social Media and the Military’
[i] See for example…
Floridi, L. (2015). The Onlife Manifesto: Being Human in a Hyperconnected Era.
Gómez Cruz, E & Ardèvol, E ‘Ethnography and Field in Media(ted) Studies: A Practice Theory Approach’ in Medrado, A (ed)Media Ethnographies: The Challenges of Breaking Boundaries. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture.