Life’s Hard on the Frontline, Twittering from Warzones

war blog Lifes Hard on the Frontline, Twittering from Warzones The powers that be have allowed a British army commander to use the social media twitter while touring for six-months in Afghanistan.
SO1 Lieutenant Colonel Dougie Graham commands the 450 man strong 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland in Edinburgh. Lieutenant Colonel Dougie hopes to keep himself and his battalion connected with their friends and family during the tour. The glaring security issues mean that Dougie Graham will discuss in fine detail what it is he can exactly tweet about and what he can’t. I’m guessing location, causalities, future movements and battle diagnosis won’t be the hot topic of the day.
You may be surprised to hear that the battalion already has a twitter page (yeah I know). It seems as if the 2nd battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland is all about the social media – are they trying to fight in a war or make friends online.
There is a lot more to fighting a war then just actual fighting Graham says ‘I would like to be able to give people a feel for the reality because it’s not all fighting, it’s not all bombs and bullets’. Hopefully through social media the soldiers can get in touch with their human side. The United States has recently lifted a general ban on social media now allowing for exceptions.
There seems to me to be something not right about this whole story, three issues in particular jump up at me.
Does social media trivialise the war? For me social media is about building connections (friends, family and business) and sharing information (fun times and business details). War is a very serious matter and social media is not, social media is open source for everyone to see, war is about the taking of lives and re-building new governments (let’s remember not all of us believe the war is legal). Associating war and social media makes the war look like fun and games. Communications in war have always been secretive.
This leads me on to the second point. All the info that social media could make available will still remain hidden. Social media can be used as a tool to bring sensitive information about the war to the main stream but it is simply too easy to find the person who leaked the information. All messages will be monitored negating the reason for having it in the first place.
Finally, why doesn’t the military just develop their own form of social media like communications or just use a flipping e-mail account.
I really don’t see the significance of allowing the military to use social media (it would be significant if it meant that it was an open tap of information about all aspects of the war – especially human rights injustices). This story may have been put out there by military PR people to make the forces look more human. Any tweet from these guys out in Afghanistan will probably read like this ‘had some great food today, played some cricket and forgot the war’, ‘missing home, but serving my country makes me feel proud’. Social media is all about bringing new and interesting information to the web; if the soldiers want to talk with their families about everyday life then the military will have ways to do this already.