Food for thought

Should social media be allowed in the armed forces?

Social media has become an integral part of everyone’s lives, including people in the armed forces. But is this conducive for the armed forces or even the national security of a country? One might say how can a harmless tweet or a like on Facebook matter to national security. Well, unfortunately it does. On the other hand, social media today is a perfect platform to mend grievances today. And even people of the armed forces should be allowed to share their grievances. Then how do we decide whether social media be allowed in the armed forces?

The Sanctity of armed forces

The Army, Navy, Airforce and other allied organizations form the crux of armed forces in a country. We can safely leave police out of this categorization as their primary concern is tackling internal threats. But people serving in the armed forces are responsible for defending our frontiers on land, water and air. Young, motivated individuals with a zeal to serve the nation enrol into the most prestigious institutions of their country and train to be the best. Tradition and discipline go hand-in-hand to turn these young boys and girls into officers and soldiers. But with that training and discipline comes a huge responsibility. Every soldier of every country has the responsibility to save its citizens from any adversity, and to protect the homeland till their last breath. But today, is that actually the case? To understand this, we need to look around us and how shallow our society has become. For example, in India, a boy or girl fresh out of class XII joins the National Defence Academy to become an officer in the armed forces. But before that, they were just teenagers, who might even have been famous on social media.

For individuals like these, it might be hard to let go of their fan base on social media. Instead, getting into the armed forces is an initiative to drive more supporters and followers, converting into more likes or retweets. For them, their life is already being lived online and it is very hard for them to construct a reality without social media involved. Each and every one of us today is so obsessed with attention and other’s view of ourselves online that we are slowly distorting reality with something else. But should soldiers of the armed forces be allowed to do the same? When these individuals chose to become a part of the armed forces, they promised to defend the homeland come what may. With such oath comes commitment and compromise. They need to let go of certain things which they loved. After all, duty first. But unfortunately, this does not happen and social media clings to them like a leech.

Why people join armed forces

To understand why individuals are not able to let go of social media, we need to understand why they join armed forces in the first place. Unfortunately, for many people it’s all about the fancy uniform, good salary, a sparkling SUV with the army insignia and a comfortable life. Not a single thing mentioned above comes close to what the armed forces preach. The problem lies in the contradiction between individuals’ aim and the army’s objective. But we as a nation are short of individuals already willing to join the armed forces, and hence being too choosy would not help. Ironically, the armed forces are actually using social media and other means to motivate people to join the forces. But we still haven’t talked about why social media is harmful for the armed forces.

Social media is a platform where people interact and stay connected to others. As a soldier in the armed forces, you cannot afford to share everything with everyone. Yes, a picture with a M56 rifle might get you a thousand likes but what it also does is compromise the security of your brigade, your cantonment, your fellow soldiers and the country eventually. We have seen numerous instances in the past where soldiers have fallen prey to ‘honey trap’ attacks from the enemy spies and ended up spilling up valuable information through social media. Is chatting to an unknown person so important that you are ready to spill nation’s secrets? Really?? One of the biggest reason for this online desperation is the need for attention. We are all needy in our own ways, and social media today helps us by focusing other’s attention on us. For that attention, we do not care how those likes come.

The other side social media

There is a saying that no two snowflakes are ever the same. This is also true for people, and soldiers. Saying that every person who joins the armed forces does it for fame is an insult to the brave hearts who lay down their lives for the nation without thinking twice. It is an insult to those who only think about their nation, even before their own family. It is possible that the ratio of such people is marginally less, but even one person who fights for his/her country is a hero. There is a possibility that social media is a necessity today. Few months back, we all saw a soldier complaining about the food in the armed forces and the video received thousands of likes and views. If it wasn’t for social media, maybe his voice would have never reached a single soul. But is that the right way of doing things? Should a soldier post a video on social media for the whole world to see? I am no judge of right and wrong, and definitely not a judge of what should be done in the armed forces.

The only point I want to raise through this article is that we need to be a little sensitive and little cautious when it comes to social media. A civilian can afford to make some mistakes which might be confined to 10 people. But the men and women of the armed forces have the responsibility of the whole nation bestowed upon them. We understand that even they long attention and a normal life. But the day they signed up for their job, many privileges got curtailed. So I request everyone in the line of duty to think twice about what you share and who you share with. If you want to earn money, please leave the armed forces and join a multinational. But please, do not do so at the expense of the nation.


Amanish Lohan