Originally published 31 December, 2016

Forces banter is like no other (Mostly). I’m not entirely sure that many ‘civvies’ will ever truly understand the nature of this connection, respect and humour which from the outside may look like anything but humour, respect and connection. Savagery, disrespect and a sick slanted language are the glue that holds this phenomena together. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted and that’s exactly why it works in the way that it does.

However, this camaraderie used to be between troops, talked about in a manner that ‘outsiders’ maybe wouldn’t understand (a bit like all the acronyms used such as BFT or PFA as it now is) and titles such as Remf, crowbag or craphat could be exchanged without revealing the intricacies of these insults, yet understood by those who use them and enjoyed for these very reasons.

So what’s the issue? What point am I making here and why is this about Forces humour? Well, in short, this humour used to be face to face, person to person and the general layman or ‘civvie’ may not have ever encountered this, seen or understood it, until the advent of the internet and/or reality TV. As a cybertrauma researcher, I spend a considerable amount of time watching behaviours on the Internet and how these behaviours are influencing social and emotional intelligence or in this case the future employability of serving and veteran members of the Forces.

In short, I have watched a number of websites, social media accounts, groups and pages that are devoted to the humour of the Forces increase in both numbers and volume. This is not actually my point here as the internet provides the very platform for this expansion and growth. What I am considering and writing about is the evolution of ‘lack of foresight’. By this I mean; Yes we have freedom of speech (to a degree), yes the Forces humour and banter is a real thing and I believe that this should not be quelled and I don’t propose that as a solution here. But, here is the issue; when you post this on a public platform such as social media, it can be seen by the Forces staff and general public who WILL and DO include your future employers, romantic partners, their parents, new friends, enemies and maybe your children. This can be seen at any time now or in the future.

What is funny now and retrospectively at the time may affect you in your future. For real. It’s almost like battlefield incidents becoming something you are judged for in your future, by people who weren’t there and don’t understand why you engaged in the behaviours that you did. I’m sure those of you who are veterans and currently serving will see the irony in that last sentence (It’s rather topical right now don’t you think?). However, I am likening your social media posts to your future.

I don’t know if you saw the SAS Who Dares Wins TV series that showed the kind of behaviour that I’m discussing here, so here’s a short example. The ‘Staff’ on the program looked into the “very traceable” histories of the competitors and used this to ‘educate’ and ‘have a chat’ with them. Obviously for very different reasons in the program, but the principle is the same. This ‘checking’ behaviour was done to reveal psychological sides of the competitors that could be used to provoke, motivate or indeed persecute against. So, let’s extrapolate from this just for a moment and I’ll suggest that a person in the near future checking your social media history could be either:

Current social media accounts (not naming them here) who do exactly this to expose ‘Persec’ or just for the laugh at your expense or,

Your future employer who in a few years time decides to offer the job to someone who didn’t post a sick/misogynistic/misandric/homophobic joke/banter on a public forum. Would you even know that this was the reason for not getting the job?

Your Cpl, Sgt, Staff etc….

Forces banter is great at times and yes I appreciate the intricacies of it and can indulge in it, however, I know because of my job and role in life that I choose whom to share this with and when. I know my digital reputation, footprint and future can all depend upon this. I use foresight to pause and consider my options (yes this is annoying as it means I don’t join in on conversations I would like to) and to be honest I worry about the younger end of the population who are currently posting online without (or without caring about) this momentary pause and consideration.

Neuroscience tells us this is probably due to maturation of the brain, occurring at approximately 25 years of age (slightly older for males) and this could be an underlying explanation. Perhaps even an excuse. I wonder what the New Year will bring for those posts that will appear from those who are even less in control of their executive functions due to alcohol (Executive functioning is the sciencey word for thinking, planning and reasoning). How will this affect their future, both in and out of the Forces? I am aware that a (probably singular) briefing about digital footprints & Persec is now part of Basic/Phase 1, however, I am still seeing an increase in the number of posts that I’m quite sure I will be using in my research in future. So my questions are twofold here.

Why are the Forces not discussing this with their employees as a means of future career prospects and safety? (I mean more than just Persec) If they are, why is it not working?

Surely you wouldn’t have a problem being a part of my research seeing as your posts are public? I wonder?

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