Social Media is Honey and Vinegar

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. James King
  • first sergeant, 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron
People are more connected today with the world around them then anytime in history. We have computers, tablets, and smartphones that allow us to see what is happening around the world, where our friends are at any given time, and tweet about the lunch menu from our favorite celebrity. This revolution of instant information is changing the world around us - both for the good and the bad. Here are some things that you should keep in mind as we continue this transformation.

It seems that almost everyone I know has a smartphone and is connected to some kind of media outlet whether it is e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. People are able to send and receive information from virtually anywhere and anytime. Facebook has approximately 1.15 billion users as of March 2013 and I know that most of my friends and family are part of the total. This is fantastic medium to use so grandma can see the kids playing at soccer, my wife can post her frustrations as a second grade teacher (and someone besides me will actually listen to her), and we can keep in touch with our family who are spread out around the country. Facebook has been great in keeping deployed families in touch with one another and their home unit. More than once, I have been able to get a deployed member to respond to me faster with Facebook than e-mail to their official military account. Facebook is changing how we are communicating with each other and is quickly making its way (if not already there) into the main stream. As an example, did you know that the 944th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 944th Development and Training Flight, and the 944th Fighter Wing all have Facebook pages that you can join?

As great as this transformation is to most of us, there are some problems that come with it. Using the wonderful internet I am talking about, I was able to find several negative military stories that made national news because of the media revolution. In 2005, a squadron of Marines was accused of killing unarmed men, women, and children in an Iraq village. "...cellphone photos reportedly taken by one of the Marines the day after the killings have been put forth as evidence that the killings were methodical and without resistance" was quoted in the article that was used to help the prosecution in their case. The second was something I still remember being briefed about which related to Marines urinating on corpses. "Capt. Clement was charged with dereliction of duty for not properly supervising Marines who urinated on Taliban corpses. A video of the act went viral on YouTube last year, drawing harsh criticism from the White House." Does anyone remember the Abu Ghraib prison photos? These acts put the integrity of all military personnel in question and can create a void with the public trust. Even if you do not think the pictures or video are harmful, you should always know that your perception is not everyone's perception. Since other people's perception is what we have to take into account and we don't know how everyone will interpret the information, it is almost impossible to do. Because of this, you should always consider the most conservative views in anything you post.

Let me paint a picture - TDY to Hawaii with your squadron. People are having a great time on a Friday night at the club; everyone is there from the youngest airman to the squadron commander. People are having drinks and your Lieutenant or Captain is  having a drink with the other members in the unit who are enlisted. This is a great time for bonding and building unit cohesiveness. Everyone is having fun with no ill intentions in anyone's mind. In my opinion, social gatherings on TDYs are critical in creating the bond within the unit - both for officers and enlisted.

Now let me put on a different "perception hat". A picture was taken and posted on Facebook of the Captain having a drink with his unit members and it is captioned "Captain is one of us!! at Hickam AFB Club". This photo is seen by someone who thinks it is inappropriate or maybe unprofessional and it gets sent up to a wing commander. What do you think is going to happen? The unit commander will be in front of the wing commander explaining what happened. The perception from the picture may (and probably will) impact the Commander and Captain's career (remember that Fraternization is not allowed in the military). Even though this was innocent and the event was incredible at building "esprit de corp" within the unit, the picture's perception does not tell the entire story. Remember that every post on line is there forever. Even if this did not come up now - what would happen if it surfaced when the Captain is being considered for Colonel or General later in their career? You need to be careful what you post or say because it is admissible in court and may come back to bite you or someone else.

I will end with this thought - even though you may not post a picture that could be taken the wrong way, you don't know who will. Everyone has a camera phone and Facebook is seconds away. Be aware of your surroundings and if you are in a situation where it may be questioned or taken the wrong way, ask every to leave the pictures/posts to a more suitable time. This may save you or your friends from facing unnecessary negative consequences.

Information taken from the following websites and