News: Think first, post later: The importance of respectable social media etiquette
Story by Senior Airman Aubrey White
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. - A multitude of social media platforms has made sharing every aspect of lives easy, immediate and permanent. Because of this, and the rate information spreads through the internet, U.S. military members must ensure to think before they post.
Leaders at Joint Base Langley-Eustis have made it a point to inform U.S. Air Force airmen and U.S. Army soldiers of the consequences of unprofessional online behavior and encourage them to practice respectable social media etiquette.
“[Unprofessional online behavior] can affect morale, good order and discipline,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Tidwell, 633rd Medical Group first sergeant. “On a national scale, it could affect the public's opinion and that of Congressional leaders.”
Recent posts by U.S. Service members on Facebook and Instagram have caused a flurry of negative attention. These social media missteps highlight the importance of upholding the military’s values and image.
“As service members, you represent the entire military,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jervina Johnson, 633rd Comptroller Squadron financial services supervisor and security manager. “If you post something [on a social media site] that is inappropriate, it is going to be seen as a reflection of the entire military.”
Although a photo, video or status update may have been posted months or years ago, the ability of cell phones to capture and upload photos means what was shot a year ago is just as accessible as what was shot a minute ago. If content is dishonorable to the military and brought to the attention of a service member’s unit, it may result in disciplinary action.
“Whatever you share on social media is permanent,” Johnson said. “If you do not want the world to know, then you should not post it. Something posted five years ago can resurface at any time, even if it was just a ‘younger, dumber you.’”
Some service members may use social media sites as a means of venting frustration. Members must remember they may be held liable if their statements defy the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including: Article 88, Contempt toward officials, Article 89, Disrespect toward superior commissioned officer, and Article 91, Insubordinate conduct toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer or petty officer; among others.
“Social media can be a tremendous asset or a tremendous vulnerability, depending on the quality of discretion employed by the users,” Tidwell said. “Before posting something, think, ‘Would my base commander approve of this post if it made it onto [a television channel]?’”
The following lists include useful social media tips provided by the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook and the Air Force Social Media Guide:
What not to post
- Classified information
- Specific unit movement information
- If and when a family is going on vacation or leaving the house vacant
- Gossip and anything that may be considered offensive
- Any information that would infringe upon the personal rights of others
- Information concerning personnel missing or killed in action prior to release by DOD
- Anything that would discredit the Armed Forces
Good items to post
- Pride and support for service, units, specialties and other service members
- General statements about service or duty
- Corrections to misrepresentations made about the military – remember to do so respectfully and accurately
For more information about social media etiquette, visit www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/SocialMediaGuide2013.pdf for the Air Force Social Media Guide and www.25idl.army.mil/Social_media_handbook.pdf for the U.S. Army Social Media Handbook.
Airmen and soldiers can also reference Air Force Instruction 1-1 and Army Regulation 600-50.