You might hear seasoned military spouses talk about the days of arriving at a new installation knowing absolutely nobody. They might talk about walking -- because one car families -- to the family services building and getting the lay of the land, in person.
That probably shocks you because today the very first thing you do when your spouse gets orders is to jump onto Facebook and find a spouse group for that area. No more family services buildings. No more in-person investigation.
But recent allegations that spouse groups are full of vitriol and hate, got us thinking about whether or not Facebook groups really are worth it. Do these groups fuel the "dependa" feelings that are constantly thrust upon the military spouse community? Are they just drama? Can they actually help?
The truth is after you sift through the drama (because, yes, it's there) they can actually help quite a lot. The groups exist for many reasons, including to help incoming spouses avoid making the same mistakes others made, creating connections with spouses from a new unit or even just finding your next babysitter.
Related: I Was a Military Spouse Bully
There's plenty of reasons the drama of spouse Facebook groups can seem overwhelming, but if you hunt for the good and steer clear of the bad, the positives might just outweigh the negatives. Here's why you should continue to use them.
1. Learn the area before you get there. When orders come out, you have a ton of questions, and who better to answer those questions than the spouses that already live here? Learn whether living on or off the installation is better, research areas where you should avoid renting and find out about the best schools for the kids. You can even get the skinny on the best restaurants and the worst traffic times.
2. Help your career. Did you know there are Military Spouse Professional Networking groups on Facebook supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes program? You can join the one for your current installation, your new installation and even a virtual one, and start making the networking connections you need to keep your career running smoothly.
3. Connect with your new unit. You might be able to find a family or spouse group on Facebook for your new unit. Sometimes they are secret groups, and you'll have to wait until your service member in-processes to join. But once you do, you'll never have to wait for them to bring home information on the ball or marriage retreat. You'll know before they do.
4. Find your lost boxes. One fantastic Facebook group is Lost During My PCS, started with the intention of building a network to help find lost items during a move. With over 26,000 members, the posts include tips and tricks on how to move efficiently and some reunited items.
5. Connect with spouses who share your interests. Military spouses share many things in common, and most of them have nothing to do with their service members. One group of military spouses has united behind their Latina culture and found a way to forge forward in this crazy life together. The Esposas Militares Hispanas group has set the standard for how military spouse Facebook groups should work. Watch this video to see the inspiration behind the group.
6. Find a house to rent. PCS season is a constant shuffle of families selling, renting and buying houses. It can seem really overwhelming if it's your first time. If you have been in a spouse group for any amount of time, you see the immediate pounce of realtors as soon as someone indicates they may be living off the installation. To make the best decisions, and really focus on your next home, look at joining a PCS Pay-it-Forward group like this one at Fort Hood, Texas. The goal in this group is for everyone to share information in one spot so incoming families can see what's available.
It goes without saying that there are going to be some bad apples in these groups, just like there are in life. But we've found over the years that the groups also host spouses who truly want to help others. Be a part of the solution, not the problem, and share the parts of your military spouse journey that will help others.
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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.