Lisa Ellen Silvestri
University of Kansas Press
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For most of us, clicking like on social media has become fairly routine. For a Marine, clicking like from the battlefield lets his social network know hes alive. This is the first time in the history of modern warfare that US troops have direct, instantaneous connection to civilian life back home. Lisa Ellen Silvestris Friended at the Front documents the revolutionary change in the way we communicate across fronts. Social media, Silvestri contends, changes what it’s like to be at war.
Based on in-person interviews and online fieldwork with US Marines, Friended at the Frontexplores the new media habits, attitudes, and behaviors of troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some of the complications that emerge in their wake. The book pays particular attention to the way US troops use Facebook and YouTube to narrate their experiences to civilian network members, to each other, and, not least of all, to themselves. After she reviews evolving military guidelines for social media engagement, Silvestri explores specific practices amongst active duty Marines such as posting photos and producing memes. Her interviews, observations, and research reveal how social network sites present both an opportunity to connect with civilians back home, as well as an obligation to do so—one that can become controversial for troops in a war zone.
Much like the war on terror itself, the boundaries, expectations, and dangers associated with social media are amorphous and under constant negotiation. Friended at the Front explains how our communication landscape changes what it is like to go to war for individual service members, their loved ones, and for the American public at large.
“Friended at the Front: Social Media in the American War Zone is an engaging and innovative account that should draw the attention of anyone interested in the study of the experiences of warriors. With new technologies such as Facebook and email, historians and others should recognize the dramatic changes ongoing on how we gather the impressions of the soldiers including visual ones. This book is a timely and important one.”
—Kyle Longley, author of The Morenci Marines: A Tale of Small Town America and the Vietnam War
“An accessible, original, and important analysis of how social media help members of the military express themselves and stay connected to friends, family, and each other during difficult and self-defining times. Silvestri’s approach is current and fresh and her interpretations sharp and thought-provoking. . . . A truly unique and valuable book.”
—Zizi Papacharissi, author of A Private Sphere: Democracy in a Digital Age
“As Silvestri demonstrates, technology has indeed blurred the distinctions between the front lines and the home front in contemporary warfare. Her example of the Marines storing their digital cameras in their extra grenade pouches is a powerful reminder of the revolution that has occurred technologically, which in turn has spurred communications and social changes that Silvestri adeptly illuminates….Timely, insightful, and provocative, her book is a significant contribution to our understanding of social media, 21st-century war, and the dynamic relationship between the two.”
—William A. Taylor, ex-Marine Corps officer and author of Every Citizen a Soldier: The Campaign for Universal Military Training after World War II
“A fascinating analysis of the intense use of social media by Marines who are facing stress, comradery and isolation. The author sheds new light on this important but generally overlooked topic and places it within a larger cultural and critical context. Her findings have significance both for social policy and social science.”