A Fort Campbell, Kentucky based Army unit that deployed to Afghanistan suffered five casualties. Within a very short period of time there was a unit blackout: all unofficial communication back to the States was cut off – or so it is policy and was ordered, but that isn't what happened. Instead, word went 'round the world via email, cell phones, and social networking. People who should've known nothing were finding out all kinds of things. This absolutely should not have happened, but who is to blame and can it be stopped?
The bridge between those in combat and their loved ones was built by the Department of Defense. It slowly but surely allowed (or didn't effectively halt or monitor the use of) cell phones, email, and social networking including Facebook and Twitter, effectively rendering letter writing a thing of the past.
For loved ones in combat and at home, this heightened level of connectivity promises a heightened level of assurance. In reality it offers nothing more than a tiny ray of hope for an even tinier increment of time. The reassurance for parties on both sides of the communication doesn't last. For all intents and purposes the connectivity becomes an addiction whose fixes must, at best, come reliably in order to sustain that tiny ray of hope. At worst they must increase exponentially, especially when the connectivity has been compromised.
In pre-hyper-connected days, the spouses of the deployed had no choice but to build a defense of their own. They honed the skill of putting worry on the back burner and readjusted into a functional routine that did not depend on regular communication with their loved ones. They did this because there was no connection other than letter writing and maybe, just maybe a phone call (which did not take place where or when active combat was nearby).
Conversely, the near-constantly connected minds of today's spouses rarely build a fortress to contain and temper loneliness, anxiety and fear because they don't think they need it. When (not if) the fortress is needed, where does this unprepared mind go? High and to the right (i.e.: chronic sleeping problems, prolonged anxiety, loss of routine, unusual weight loss or gain, substance abuse, depression, domestic violence, etc).
My own experience with the transition from letter writing to hyper-connectivity brought my bathroom to rubble. I had teenagers and a young child when my husband and his fellow Marines first set foot in Iraq in March 2003. It was his seventh deployment into his 29th country. I was not the only one with suddenly-troubled teenagers or a young child whose behavior regressed. While I had a close-knit group of military friends nearby, my family was almost lethargic with support.