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Social media makes it harder for families to learn tragic news in dignified way, retired U.S. Army Major says

In wars and deadly conflicts of the past, families were notified they lost a loved one in a dignified manner that doesn’t always exist nowadays, according to a retired U.S. Army Major. 

Dr. Sonja Stribling, PhD, is an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who helps women build businesses, but prior to that she had a 21-year military career as a highly decorated combat veteran and casualty officer. During one of her tours in Iraq, the retired U.S. Army Major was responsible for identifying dead bodies, finding killed in-action soldiers and making sure their families found out the tragic news that they lost a loved in the respectful way the relatives of heroes deserve. But modern technology has changed everything, and Stribling is troubled by social media playing a huge role in the process she once poured her heart into. 

“What I’m seeing happen now, where people are finding out on the internet about their family being murdered, killed, violated, it’s just, as an understatement, it’s devastating,” Stribling told Fox News Digital. 

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Dr. Sonja Stribling said people are finding out on the internet about their family being murdered, killed, and violated (Fox News Digital | Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Israel declared war on Hamas last week after the terror group executed the deadliest attack on the Jewish state in its history, killing at least 1,300 innocent people with many being women and children.

Stribling watched in disbelief on the day of the terror attack when footage of the devastation hit social media, showing everything from the bodies of victims to raw footage of Israeli hostages being taken to Gaza. While most of the victims were civilians, and Stribling largely worked on identifying soldiers, she’s horrified for anyone who finds out a loved one has been killed while casually scrolling social media. 

Stribling explained that when she served, the military would turn off all ability to communicate outside her unit whenever someone was missing. The purpose of this was to prevent phone calls or other forms of communication if anyone wanted to jump the gun and call back home with tragic news. Once approved by a general, families would be properly informed. 

“Families weren’t notified by a phone call, or email or online,” she said. “They were notified by someone knocking on their door and letting them know that they lost a loved one.” 

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Social Media apps on an iPhone screen

Social media allows information to be shared immediately, but that’s not always a good thing, according to Dr. Sonja Stribling.  (Getty Images)

Stribling believes social media has “tremendously” changed the ability to provide immediate information. 

“People are pulling out their phones, they’re posting it online… social media has expedited the notification, but expediting the notification is not always good,” she said. “Especially in these situations, because family members are finding out by unofficial people about what’s happening.” 

Stribling believes there should be grace to the process when families receive the worst-imaginable news. 

“There should be empathy and sympathy to this. It’s not just, ‘Hey, this is what’s happening. This is what we see, this is what’s going on,’ and that’s very unfortunate,” Stribling said. “It’s already tragic as it is, but social media has taken to a whole new level of notifying people.”

Stribling has been stunned watching footage of Hamas’ terror attacks and Israel’s retaliation from her home, as anyone can pull out a phone and share carnage with the world. 

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“We’re watching this in real time as if you’re there, but you’re really not there. But it’s in real time. And when I was there, I know my heart was beating fast, I’m nervous, you’re in prayer because you’re like, ‘Oh, please, just let me make it home,’ and now people are sitting back watching this,” she said. “Someone else that is there, you are you watching it through their eyes, but you’re watching it through their phone. So social media, the platforms have changed the game forever.” 

She “can’t even imagine” if social media and camera phones were available during some of history’s deadliest wars, and doesn’t think revealing the identity of victims or posting misinformation on social media should be allowed – although she’s well aware that it won’t be stopped. 

“It’s kind of something you can’t really prevent, because these are mostly civilians that are going through this. So, it’s devastating that social media – one of the most powerful tools that was created – now is something that is jeopardizing possibly the lives of people,” she said. “And people are finding out information that they should not find out until it’s reported, and the information is accurate.”

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