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Über dieses Buch

Social media has fundamentally changed communication and interaction in today's society. Apart from being used by individuals, it is also omnipresent in public sector organisations such as the armed forces.

This book examines the opportunities and risks associated with social media in the context of the armed forces from an international, social scientific perspective. It discuses the impact of social media in the everyday life of military personnel and analyses the extent to which social media influences their performance, be it as a distraction or as a source of perceived appreciation. It particularly highlights the representation of masculinity and femininity in military social media channels, since the way gender is portrayed on social media has an effect on how future recruits and – at the other end of the military career spectrum – veterans feel they are approached.

The book also focuses on the new form of follow-up discussion, which enables the armed forces to interact with the population. On social media, the armed forces are publicly presented, and this shapes the public’s opinions on them. Further, the armed forces can use debates as a monitoring tool of society's attitudes towards them or towards events that have an effect on society. Conversely, social media can lend a voice to military personnel, allowing them to be publicly heard.

As discussions on social media can only be controlled to a limited extent, the context in which the armed forces are discussed alters their sphere of influence and potentially leads to a loss of control. An extreme example of this is the use of social media as a tool to strategically distribute misinformation in order to shape public opinion and threaten national security. Moreover, the use of social media to demoralise adversaries or to harm their credibility results in social media being considered a cyber weapon that affects politics and military activities.




Social media has fundamentally changed communication and interaction in today’s societies over the past two decades. This applies not only to the individual members of a society, but also to its institutions and organisations. The tendencies of isomorphism, which is the process of adopting processes and strategies that have proven to be successful in other organisations (DiMaggio PJ, Powell WW: Am Sociol Rev 48(2):147–160, 1983), force public sector organisations such as armed forces to establish social media as part of their reality. Yet, what is it that makes social media the phenomenon it is?
Eva Moehlecke de Baseggio, Olivia Schneider

Social Media in the Everyday Life of Military Personnel


Ubiquity with a Dark Side: Civil-Military Gaps in Social Media Usage

Most college undergraduates are Millennials or Generation Z members. These generations are ferocious social media consumers across a range of platforms. Research exists on the U.S. military’s adoption of social media, but less is known about the everyday implications of social media use and how service members might differ in their uses from their civilian peers. Using survey data comparing (N = 960) American civilian college students, Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, and military academy cadets, we examine how these groups use social media, the educational and social impacts of this usage, and experiences with self-censorship and anxiety. We find a civilian-military gap when it comes to social media uses and experiences. Social media is more adverse for civilians than academy cadets in terms of time usage, impact on education, and experiences with the darker dimensions such as cyber-bullying and harassment. Civilians also practice less self-censorship of social media posts than cadets.
Karin K. De Angelis, Ryan Kelty, Morten G. Ender, David E. Rohall, Michael D. Matthews

Social Media Use at a U.S. Military Academy: Perceived Implications for Performance and Behavior

A growing body of research highlights the impacts of social media use for civilians. However, few studies have examined the possible implications of social media use for military personnel. In order to fill this gap, we surveyed cadets and faculty at a United States service academy. Most cadets and faculty members agreed that cadets spend more time than is ideal on social media, and most faculty surveyed had observed cadets using social (and other) media during lectures. Both cadets and faculty agreed that social media use impedes academic performance. However, social media use also had positive implications, as cadets listed connecting with friends and family as motives for using these media. Separately, cadets ranked the social media app Jodel among their top five most popular – in contrast to civilians. Jodel affords anonymity and, as such, potentially enables cadets to post controversial messages without fear of identification and accountability. Possible implications of these findings for the academy and the armed forces are discussed.
Sara Beth Elson, Ryan Kelty, Keith Paulson, John Bornmann, Karin K. De Angelis

The Need for Visibility: The Influence of Social Media Communication on Swiss Armed Forces Officers

Social media is becoming increasingly central within armed forces’ communication strategies. While there is research on the external impacts of social media communication, less is known about the effects on actual employees. Thus, the focus of this contribution is to collect and analyse the wishes, needs, and attitudes of officers of the Swiss Armed Forces that relate to social media communication in particular and communication in general. Designed as an explorative study, 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted and a qualitative content analysis was carried out. Besides some rather instrumental issues related to social media communication, three soft factors related to and affected by (social media) communication emerged. These are visibility, identification, and commitment. The three concepts are interrelated and at least partly dependent on each other. The analysis of the interviews and the theoretical embedding show the high sensitivity of cadre members towards organisational communication as well as the many ways in which communication affects their work, motivation, and well-being.
Eva Moehlecke de Baseggio

Gender–Specific Representation on Social Media


Managing Femininity Through Visual Embodiment: The Portrayal of Women on the Instagram Accounts of the Swedish and the Swiss Armed Forces

As a gendered organisation, the military’s organisational identity is based, among other things, on what is considered as stereotypic masculinity: strong, brave, and tough men represent the ideal warrior. The increasing number of female soldiers threatens this part of the organisational identity. Social media such as Instagram serves as a means to reflect organisational identity. Therefore, the following contribution examines how the armed forces deal with the gendered nature of the military by comparing the portrayal of women on the Instagram profiles of the Swedish and the Swiss Armed Forces. In consideration of the societal context as well as both countries’ military characteristics, we analyse whether gender stereotypes in the military are highlighted or reduced and how the female body is treated in relation to military identity. A visual content analysis of the Instagram posts from 2018 reveals that women are portrayed in stereotypical masculine roles in the case of the Swedish Armed Forces, whereas the Instagram pictures of the Swiss Armed Forces portraying women highlight stereotypical female attributes.
Andrea Rinaldo, Arita Holmberg

(Dis-)Empowered Military Masculinities? Recruitment of Veterans by PMSCs Through YouTube

State militaries are a central, but not the only site for the construction of military masculinities. In this chapter, we examine how Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs), which increasingly provide security-related services to armed forces and recruit former military employees, partake in the construction of these masculinities through their social media use. Based on a qualitative content analysis of the YouTube recruitment videos aimed primarily at veterans by two major U.S.-based companies – DynCorp International and CACI – we illustrate how these PMSCs, while affirming traditional notions of military masculinity, challenge its traditional meaning as well by fashioning the rival ideal of the ‘corporate soldier’. In addition to upgrading the otherwise marginalised masculinities of veterans by allowing them to be hero warriors, disabled, and civilian employees all at the same time, this ideal also boosts the corporate masculinity of these companies and enables them to define themselves as both legitimate contractors and superior security providers.
Jutta Joachim, Andrea Schneiker

Social Media Discussions as Insights into Public Opinion


The Importance of Discussions on Social Media for the Armed Forces

Social media offers an ideal platform for conducting lively discussions, some of which are also about the armed forces. Therefore, based on theoretical considerations and findings from researching user-generated content, this contribution examines the importance of digital negotiation processes and offers a first theoretical insight into the significance this may have for civil-military relations. A society’s image of the armed forces is influenced by the narratives and visualisations conveyed by different media. According to a multi-level model of the public sphere, social media discussions can be understood as part of social negotiation processes. In these processes, a society’s image, for example of the armed forces, is consolidated or changed. People participate in discussions on social media for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, cognitive motives are pursued, for instance, to deepen knowledge. On the other hand, it can also simply be a matter of acting out. Negotiation processes on social media should not be neglected, as previous research indicates that online comments influence the attitude and perception of readers. Discussions on social media can thus shape the social vision of armed forces and consequently have an impact on civil-military relations by strengthening or weakening popular support.
Olivia Schneider

Debating German Special Forces: A Scandal in the Military, a Documentary, and a Thread

In April 2017, a farewell party was held for a company commander of the German special forces (Kommando Spezialkräfte, KSK). This party became the focus of a feature by the political television magazine Panorama because of the inappropriate behaviour of KSK soldiers, such as a peculiar training course, the singing of extreme right-wing songs, giving the Hitler salute, and – planned, but not performed – sexual intercourse. The feature received numerous comments on Panorama’s Facebook page. These posts were subjected to an inductive content analysis which identified five different thematic fields: (1) questioning the story, (2) respect and leniency, (3) shock and concern, (4) the Minister of Defence and her discharge of office, and (5) tradition and identity. The posts show a controversial debate, allow for some insight into German civil-military relations, and reveal some implications of the social media age for the armed forces.
Gerhard Kümmel

Sentiment of Armed Forces Social Media Accounts in the United Kingdom: An Initial Analysis of Twitter Content

Prior research on the United Kingdom (UK) public’s perception towards the British Armed Forces often found a contradicting understanding of the military as both ‘heroes’ and ‘victims’. In order to examine these contradictions further, this study examined public attitudes and perceptions of the British Armed Forces, using a sentiment analysis of Twitter content posted on or after 1 January 2014. Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms, with an estimated 126 million daily active users worldwide, and 17 million active users in the UK. A bespoke data collection platform was developed to identify and extract relevant tweets and replies. In total, 323,512 tweets and 17,234 replies were identified and analysed. We found that tweets related to or discussing the British Armed Forces were significantly more positive than negative, with public perceptions of the Armed Forces stable over time. We also observed that it was more likely for negative tweets to be posted late evening or early morning compared to other hours of the day. Furthermore, this study identified differences in how positive and negative tweets were discussed in relation to politicised hashtags concerning Government policy, political organisations, and mental health. This was an unexpected finding, and more research is required to understand the reasons as to why this is the case.
Daniel Leightley, Marie–Louise Sharp, Victoria Williamson, Nicola T. Fear, Rachael Gribble

A Transparent Network – Soldiers’ Digital Resistance and Economic Unrest

The current study offers several insights into the relationship between the features of digital activism and the ability of groups with limited protesting powers, such as soldiers in mandatory military service in Israel, to protest and promote social change. Moreover, it points to a unique configuration of collective identity, which is rooted not in organised collective action, but in a rhizomatic process taking place beneath the surface. The fragmented voices of these soldiers come together in the cybernetic sphere as a quasi-transparent net to form a canonical collective voice. This unique configuration seems to bridge the two existing concepts of digital activism, one of which tends to underestimate the importance of the collective, while the other believes that, despite the action of individuals, the group remains the dominant structure.
Shira Rivnai Bahir

Risks and Dangers of Social Media


The Dark Side of Interconnectivity: Social Media as a Cyber–Weapon?

Traditional wisdom understands weapons as tools that cause or have the potential to cause damage or harm, whereas cyber-weapons relate to the use of computer code that causes or has the potential to cause damage or harm. Both conceptions understand damage and harm as inherently physical. While the rise of social networks creates new opportunities for strategic communications in the armed forces, it also facilitates hostile activities, such as psychological operations, with the potential to cause damage beyond the physical domain, thus challenging the traditional understanding of weapons. This contribution investigates the potential of social media to be used as a cyber-weapon, arguing that Russia used social media as a cyber-weapon in the conflict with Ukraine. The analysis demonstrates that Russia’s use of social media caused damage to Ukraine, which consequently contributed to the reform of the security and defence sector in Ukraine.
Sofia Martins Geraldes

Misinformation and Disinformation in Social Media as the Pulse of Finnish National Security

Social media is becoming more and more of a security threat. Dissatisfaction with the content and quality of the information flow is increasing not only at a national level, but also at the level of people’s everyday lives. Social media is one of the key channels for distributing misinformation and disinformation and has also become a key instrument for influencing political activity in particular. We define misinformation as shared information which is unintentionally false, whereas disinformation refers to false information which is purposefully shared for systematic informational influencing as well as for propaganda. The post-Cold War age has created a new global power order by using information – which is increasingly shared through social media – for political purposes. Small countries like Finland have become more and more dependent on the global information flow, while at the same time increasingly being subjected to the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation. Hence, social media has become an ever-more crucial factor in terms of national security threats. At the same time, however, it is also a potential platform for creating (generalised) trust in national security by means of sharing correct information among citizens. This study focuses on the flow of misinformation and disinformation on social media in relation to armed forces and national security. In this contribution, we also address issues related to the role of generalised trust for psychological resilience and explore the European Union’s role in countering disinformation.
Teija Norri–Sederholm, Elisa Norvanto, Karoliina Talvitie–Lamberg, Aki–Mauri Huhtinen

Social Media Use in Contemporary Armed Forces as a Mixed Blessing

The widespread use of social media in the armed forces has caused structural changes in the armed forces’ communications with both the wider public and the internal public. While social media has undoubtedly eased communication with the home front, several hidden dangers can be identified. The following paper reflects on the dangers and benefits of the use of social media platforms for the armed forces from two different perspectives, the institutional and the individual. This paper also tries to answer the question of how we can regulate something that cannot be regulated, and identifies positive and negative consequences of social media use in and by the armed forces.
Jelena Juvan, Uroš Svete
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