I never really gave too much thought to the online shaming of military spouses until recently. In fact, I was completely oblivious to the hurt, emotional abuse and let down that I was causing for the people targeted.
But a simple post on one of my favorite pages caught my attention -- "Terminal Lance -- This s*&^ needs to stop." As I read that article about people shaming and bullying others, a lot of things popped up in my head. A lot of history, a lot of memories of what I used to be. So I did what any other Facebook user does, and commented. Only this wasn’t just any other typical comment, but a personal experience -- a personal experience that changed me and made me the person I am today.
This is the story how I became a military spouse bully, and how I stopped.
I went into this military world lifestyle at a young age, as most of us do. I was lost, scared of the unexpected and, more so, felt guilt for leaving my family back home. I did what almost all military wives do, both new and well-adapted ones, and involved myself with online groups, pages, and “cliques." I quickly became accepted there for my “I don’t care” attitude that I somehow developed overnight with these groups of people.
I would wake-up in the morning, get my little one off to school, make my morning breakfast, and turn on the news and give half my attention to the computer screen. I read articles from other wives and prior military members themselves with titles such as “Dependa out of her mind," and “Military wife expects to be saluted."
Now, I always questioned the authenticity of these stories. I mean, did wives really expect to be saluted because of their husbands being in the military? As I read, I also read the comments. Some of these comments were things such as, “Someone call the dependa train, she expects a discount at Old Navy," and “This B*&^% needs to know what it's like to serve this country before being saluted, YOU DON’T DESERVE IT!!!” And then I would laugh because it was so foreign to me. Aside from the local Jerry Springer episode, I’d never seen anything like this drama that was unfolding right in front of my eyes, in my very own dining room.
As I read on, day after day, I noticed the group of wives that I quickly became involved in were commenting, too. They were entertaining the idea of bashing these wives who were put on blast and made public for the rest of the internet world to see and laugh at. I started in on the fiasco, and I quickly got likes on my comments, got praised for it and instantly felt accepted.
That is where it all started.
As I quickly adjusted to this new lifestyle and group of friends, I found myself being more verbal on social media. I would read something and instantly comment on it and give it all I had. Anywhere from “Don’t be stupid, your BAH won’t increase with how many years you’ve been married”, and “All these dependas are asking about THEIR paychecks when in reality, its their husbands check, GET A JOB!”
After each and every comment, I felt good about myself. I felt like I was right, and these wives needed to know that. I felt like I knew everything there was to know about being a military spouse and these wives needed to be taught.
Days of the same behavior went on, days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. I found myself being rude, disrespectful and demeaning to not just random strangers online, but to my own personal friends! There were friends who bent over backwards for me at times and would get the backlash of my unacceptable behavior and harsh words.
No surprise here, but I lost just about all of them -- all of the friends who really mattered in my life and friends who I could actually say I loved and loved me back. At the time, I thought it was okay because hey, I had that other group that accepted me for my harsh words and disrespectful ways. Who needed “real" friends?
So I take you back to the day I read the article that “Keep Your Promise” had shared and that had me thinking. That one question that was asked when I pushed “post” on the small, not detailed comment of how I used to be a “military spouse online bully."
“Lisa, We’re curious if you had a defining moment that made you realize or was it a slow process?" the admin asked.
Truth is, I didn't have any particular defining moment. Stopping was a slow and painful process. I am not proud of the things I used to say to people. But I am the first to own up to it and know that what I did and used to say was wrong. For some reason, military wives feel that they have to belong in some way. They form these "cliques " and they run around the internet world causing problems, name calling, body shaming and the list just goes from there.
I was one of those wives. In my early 20s, I felt that I needed to belong to one of those cliques, and I did. I was in the "cool kid" club and I loved it. I loved the feeling of being superior, like an "online bad a$$" while it lasted.
But it wasn't long before I realized that what I was doing was degrading to me as not only a person, but also a mother and a wife. I found myself being a jerk to people online, just to do it. It made me feel accepted by that group, and it made me feel better about myself. It was a self-esteem issue, really.
When I look back at how angry of a person I was, how mean and disrespectful I was, it is embarrassing. To this day, I sometimes get my bluntness mistaken for bullying. I’m still working on that whole "take others' feelings into consideration when saying something," thing.
Now as I see these people, military and not, tearing one another down until they feel better about themselves, it makes me sad. It makes me sad to think that these people have such low self-esteem (whether they admit it or not), that they have to make fun of other wives for doing something as innocent as ask a question about BAH, deployment, or about their families pay -- wives who are riding that exact same military spouse train.
I thought it was cool to knock these girls down and treat them like they were a POS for asking questions. When I finally realized what I was doing, I then asked myself "why?”
"Why are you doing these things, why do you make people feeling this way?” And of course, I had no legitimate answer to justify my actions.
So here's the point: don't be one of those people. Don't feel that you have to lower yourself to those cliques and run around the internet making people feel like crap just because it satisfies your own insecurities. Raise one another up. Be there for one another, and let one another know that you feel their same pain when their loved ones have to leave.
At the end of the day, this online bullying of one another will get you nowhere. It won’t build strong and memorable relationships with people that become your family when you don’t have your family there. It won’t make you famous for being an “online bada$$." Eventually it will leave you alone, bitter and ashamed. It will do nothing other than give you the short lived satisfaction that you hurt someone’s feelings.
Learn from my experience and just never do it.
Lisa is 27-years old. She became a military spouse nine years ago and is still going strong. Born and raised in Southern California, she missed everything about it. She is a mother of two beautiful, active boys, ages eight and five. She recently finished her Bachelors degree in Health Care and hopes to continue on to a Masters. In her free time, she loves to write, run and be active in her kids' lives. She loves meeting new people, building friendships all over the world and recommends every wife do the same -- it's therapeutic to have an open range of friends.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Klearchos under the Creative Commons license.