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‘Like’ Me!

  • Published
  • By Col. James Dittus
  • 379th Expeditionary Operations Group commander
Being deployed brings challenges. We’re away from familiar environments. We must work to stay connected to loved ones. We’re busier with work than our job in garrison. However, we are fortunate to be afforded the convenience of the internet (something the Doolittle Raiders couldn’t have dreamed of in their time away). Although I’m an old guy, I realize the value of social media in maintaining connections and staying informed. Of course, as an old guy, I don’t manage to stay up-to-date on the most recent media sites. I stay informed and up-to-date with my friends, family and colleagues through Facebook and LinkedIn.

I deployed to Al Udeid one year ago. Although I’m fairly reserved on Facebook (and follow Department of Defense recommendations to protect my Personally Identifiable Information), my LinkedIn profile clearly has the date I took my current job. As a result, all the folks I’m linked to get a message letting them know I’ve been with the 379th Expeditionary Operations Group for a year. Would they like to send me a message? Why yes, many folks have already sent me messages. My personal device is awash in alerts about folks that want to tell me congratulations! It feels good to see all these folks are thinking of me.

What if LinkedIn hadn’t told them about the anniversary? What if Facebook didn’t tell me when everyone’s birthday was coming up? Have I built strong relationships that are dependable in challenging times? At times, it seems like a computer system reminding me when hundreds of other people’s birthdays are, may not be the basis of a deep and meaningful relationship. Please don’t misunderstand me. These tools in life bring great value in helping optimize our time, but they also bring great risk.

When you ‘Like’ someone’s post, you’re sending a message, and everyone that can see it is receiving a message. Is it the message you’re intending to send? One person may very carefully note that you liked their friend’s picture, but not theirs. Others may think your ‘Like’ is a political statement of support for something completely unintended, and therefore judge you. In fact, every time you ‘Like,’ you’re passing judgement on someone else. Would you do the same in another setting? How do you feel when others judge you?

I’ve seen Facebook tear apart a squadron. I’ve seen it crush an individual’s sense of self-worth. It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting your number of ‘Likes’ define your opinion of yourself, and others. It’s important not to. We all have value and we all have a place to blossom and achieve our maximum potential. I can presume that by reading this, you’ve already made a decision to serve something bigger than yourself, to make sacrifices and be ready to lay down your life for freedom. In my eyes, your actions are the true indicator of your value. You demonstrate it every day. You have deployed to serve your country, and I value you for that. Please take the time to value yourself for the person you are, and be careful to avoid letting social media define you. And, please, take care with your expressions. Others may sadly define their value based on your words.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ my article on the Grand Slam! Now, I’ve got to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn!