British army targeted "stressed" 16-year-olds on exam-results day with Facebook recruitment ads

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If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one of them would remain in the army.

Frederick the Great


“The UK is the only EU member-state where 16 year olds can join the army.”

I find this hard to believe. While Norway isn’t an EU member state, it is an EEA member, and one can join the national guard there at the age of 16, and I can only assume that at least one out of Finland, Sweden, and Denmark (all of them are full EU members) has something similar going on.

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…Because people who are having difficulty dealing with stress are people that you want to give deadly weapons and the authority to use them to while putting them into life and death stressful jobs.


Facebook is no longer gee-whiz technology. Before this, the armed forces of every nation did exactly the same thing with Teevee. Probably before that, it was the Devil Radio. They will always need to round up poor young bodies - updating the technology isn’t terribly exciting.


Well, to be fair, the military trains you to deal with stress through regimented processes and a tight network of peers to lean on. So much so that some people have trouble adjusting when they don’t have people they trust with their lives around them all the time.


This isn’t new. They came to my school 20 years ago, not recruiting (because that would be illegal) but they were offering “careers advice”.

I thought they had been banned from visiting schools since then, but it looks like I was wrong.


Here’s a centuries-old, but timeless, traditional song about the best way to deal with British recruiting sergeants. (Spoiler: It involves beating them to death with a shillelagh.)


s/British/English, Welsh and Northern Irish/

Because Scotland, of course, has to be different.

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In the US such a campaign might state “Looking for a safer environment than an American high school? Consider joining the Army.”


"I hate the army and I hate the RAF. . . "


Also they may be targeting the ones that have a hard time with “books” but maybe are less stressed by enemy fire.

There may be a distinction to be drawn between reg force and reserves. One can also join the Canadian reserves at 16, but must be 17 to join the military (and even then only with parental permission).

:musical_note: In this country the first enslaved were the working class
What’s changed?
Worst jobs, worst conditions
Worst taxed, look where you’re livin’
You go to the pub, Friday night
You will fight with a guy, don’t know what for
But won’t fight with a guy, suit and a tie
Who sends your kids to die in a war
They don’t send the kids of the rich or politicians
It’s your kids, the poor British
That they send to go die in a foreign land
For these wars you don’t understand
Yeah they say that you’re British
And that lovely patriotism they feed ya
But in reality you have more in common with immigrants
Than with your leaders :musical_note:

I am curious as to how this worked. Having poked around GraphAPI a little, I wonder how their targeting works. Most of it is self reported, but how do you target for “stressed”? Restrict to UK only, age 16, male, and then look for mentions of the word “stressed” in posts?

Facebook advertising is surprisingly bad. Its targeting is not as good as advertised, and ROI is also much worse than with, say, Adwords.

“Call Careers Information, have you got yourself an occupation?”

I’d be surprised if they want people with overall very poor stress responses; that’s a liability in jobs where the risks and stakes are considerably lower; and having people wash out before you’ve gotten that you want from them isn’t free.

The target is people who are concerned specifically about their future outcomes in the context of imminent exam results and/or handling that follows that. That’s an obvious target for “unlike what you see as every other option, we won’t hold the grade you expect to get against you…” messages.

It looks especially shabby given that the UK still recruits under-18s; but the plan is otherwise identical to the usual ‘economic conscription’ mechanisms that encourage enlistment among people (and often from specific areas) where the army is among the few state-backed vocational options remaining.

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Going by my experience 20 years ago (and it only seems to have become worse), if you aren’t stressed at age 16 in the UK then you don’t give a fuck about your future.


Do you know how deployable (or not) these ‘national guards’ are?

In the US case it is definitely possible (I don’t think it’s first-choice; but there aren’t any particularly substantial barriers and it has and does happen for our past few imperial adventures) for a ‘national guard’ unit to be activated and sent off along the same lines as a regular unit. It’s not an ‘in case of invasion of American soil’ thing.

Allowing under 18s into a national guard with those deployment options would be pretty straightforward use of child soldiers.

If, though, it’s more of a ‘for use only under the circumstances where we’d be drafting everyone who can hold a gun anyway’ type national guard it probably gets judged more along the lines of ROTC/JROTC type programs, which certainly encourage under-18s to head toward the military; but don’t actually allow you to use child soldiers under standard conditions.

Given Europe’s history of fairly apocalyptic wars, often fought on the territory of the combatants rather than some hapless proxy, I’d be fairly surprised if they’ve actually taken total-war type practices entirely off the table, even if they agree not to use them under ordinary circumstances.

My recollection is that currently under 18 soldiers are tagged as non deployable in the US. For the most part that authority is used to recruit High School graduates that haven’t reached the age of 18 yet. By the time they finish training, there either already 18 or only a month or two away.