Dear new friend.
April 25, 2011 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I would like to be a Mid-East soldier's internet pen pal.

I thought it would be cool to correspond with a soldier stuck somewhere not-so-nice. I know nothing about this, so I have a bunch of questions:

1.) Is this, to begin with, even a good idea? Do they have the downtime and internet access to read and correspond happily?

2.) I saw this site, via some googling, and it seems very snail mail based. I will fail at that game, as I'm a terrible letter-writer, but great emailer.

3.) I'm a bit worried about personality types not meshing. For example, I'm pretty liberal and anti-war, but pro-troops. (Duh.) I think it could be kept to easy-breezy small talk, and just "hang in theres," but am not sure. I'm an open minded and understanding person, but will be quickly turned off if the other party is not. Does anyone have experience here? Is there somewhere people can check out profiles, or the like, before committing?

4.) I'm a woman. I would prefer to not get a bunch of LOL SHOW ME UR BOOOOOOOBS type crap or romance-y type stuff, regardless of the gender/sex/orientation of my pen pal. I really just would like to have a buddy and to cheer someone up. This question is similar to 3: Does anyone have experience here? Is there somewhere people can check out profiles, or the like, before committing - if even just to make sure they're not a total perv or weirdo?

Any anecdotes or leads would be great. Or "no no no, you're biting off more than you can chew" would also be an acceptable answer. Please no derailing about politics and shit.
posted by hubble to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've sent some letters and care packages out to soldiers via AnySoldier. I've always included my e-mail address when I send a letter, and have almost always gotten an e-mail thank you. In one case, a soldier and I corresponded and struck up a casual friendship; we're still Facebook friends now. I'm a little confused about what beyond that you might be looking for. AnySoldier is not a penpal service; it's a service to help you find soldiers whom you can send no-strings-attached support (cards, letters, care packages) to. If you're looking for an in-depth pen-pal buddy who has lots of time and energy to write back to you, contacting a deployed soldier through AnySoldier is probably not your best option. You might want to review their FAQ.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 PM on April 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you tried Googling "military penpal"? It seems like there are a lot of sites already set up for this and may have the features you specify.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:25 PM on April 25, 2011

I've sent a bunch of books and care packages via and have gotten a few thank you notes back.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:40 PM on April 25, 2011

You're probably going to have better luck networking via Facebook to be introduced to a friend-of-a-friend, since someone in your extended social network is more likely to be willing to correspond with you as well as less likely to make pervy requests.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:43 PM on April 25, 2011

Have you ever spoken to a soldier in real life? I know that my deployed SO would be a bit annoyed if some stranger demanded her to "cheer up" and "hang in there" because she is not in fact depressed or suffering. How about a care package and a simple note thanking them for their service, and see where things go from there?
posted by acidic at 8:10 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The people that I've known who have been deployed overseas would not go for this. Maybe some would, and it may well be worth it for you to find those people, but keep in mind the situation now is very different than when people were being drafted and sent overseas. You may think of them as victims, but they don't (I'm sure this varies; most of the people I knew had signed up specifically wanting to go).
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:22 PM on April 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of the deployed soldiers I know have access to internet, facebook, skype, and phones. The ones that don't are so far back up in the middle of nowhere that not even mail gets to them on a regular basis (this would be the Special Forces peeps.)

I don't think any of these guys or gals are looking to be cheered up. They have actual friends and family members that do that.

Other than that, ThePinkSuperHero pretty much has it down.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2011

There are a lot of international penpal/e-pal sites. Perhaps you should consider one of those sites. They are regular people that enjoy corresponding. You can list your likes and dislikes and find someone compatible.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:44 PM on April 25, 2011

two cents:

my last deployment, I had fairly regular access to the internet (though I'd disagree that you're either SOF with no mail or every other joe with plenty of access -- it varies more than that in Afghanistan), but I still can't say I would've been particularly interested in communicating with a total stranger who just wanted to shoot the breeze. I already had my friends and family to encourage me and chat with me. It would require more than just small talk with a random person to make me want to give up any of my limited time talking to the people I already knew back home.

I will say that about a month into my third deployment, an acquaintance from high school who I hadn't been that close with and hadn't seen since graduation (4-5 years earlier) sent me a message on Facebook, and our back-and-forth developed into a really meaningful friendship that I continue to value highly three years later. This is the type of thing I would aim for, if possible.

might just be me.
posted by lullaby at 12:31 AM on April 26, 2011

Yeah - one of the things that I like about the 'sending books' thing is that it's very much "hey, here's something you could do for me" "oh, sure, here, let me help!" A lot of the requests are for groups or morale centers where they have a library of books and dvds and stuff.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:19 AM on April 26, 2011

I think that your assumption that personality types might not mesh is a flawed theory: there are a lot of soldiers who are liberal and anti-specific wars but pro-troops.

The real problem is that assuming that email will be something positive. You're admitting you're not great at snail mail, and are looking for something you can do that you can keep up with, seemingly that won't be a lot of effort from you. If it's not a lot of effort from you, it's not going to be a lot of value to them. Snail mail IS a morale boost, even if it is just saying "hang in there", it's a physical object that has value and a tangible thing that someone's out there.

However, the poster above who said they wouldn't have wanted to give up limited time to internet chat with a stranger is probably right. The other thing about letters-they can be answered anytime and don't require access to a computer.
posted by corb at 4:44 PM on May 1, 2011

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