ARLINGTON, Va. - The use of social media has made it easier for many to stay connected to friends and family. It often provides the opportunities to give near instant communications via text or images and can help ease stresses when servicemembers are deployed. The benefits of social media are nearly endless and often far reaching.
“Social media spreads news faster than any other media,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush, the senior enlisted advisor for the chief, National Guard Bureau, on his Facebook page, adding “it empowers us to effect change and do good on a community, state, national or even international level.”
But while there are many benefits of social media, there are sometimes dangerous ramifications if used inappropriately. The use of social media can often have unintended consequences and in some cases, end military careers.
Even things that may be part of an inside joke among friends may have a larger meaning or significance when the uniform is worn. Guard members must avoid offensive and inappropriate behavior that could bring discredit upon themselves and the National Guard. This includes posting any defamatory, libelous or obscene material.
“You represent the National Guard in cyberspace just as you do in the real world,” said Brush, adding “the same military bearing is expected of you here as we expect on the street.”
To educate Soldiers and Airmen of the use of social media, both the Army and Air Force have each published a social media handbook which gives guidance for Guard members on the use of the medium.
“You are personally responsible for what you say and post on social networking services and any other medium,” according to the Air Force Social Media Guide. In addition, “if you have doubts about whether you should post something, err on the side of caution.”
The Army Social Media Handbook provides similar guidance for Soldiers.
“Soldiers using social media must abide by the Uniform Code of Military Justice at all times. Commenting, posting or linking to material that violates the UCMJ or basic rules of Soldier conduct is prohibited,” adding “it is important that all Soldiers know that once they log on to a social media platform, they still represent the Army.”
Even if personal settings are set to private, posted items may not stay private as those who have been granted access can share those postings with others.
According to the Army Social Media Handbook, acceptable postings include pride and support for service, links to published articles about a unit or any information that is already public domain is acceptable.
Prohibited postings include specific unit movement information, gossip, or anything that would represent the military in a bad light.
Guardmembers should not release personal identifiable information that could be used to distinguish their individual identity or that of another servicemember.