FaceBook Etiquette


Dec 4, 2016
As has been noted here, many of the day to day discussions among SA parents have moved to FB and as such, I've watched some painful lessons learned since I-day last summer. To qualify my comments, I'm a USAFA grad with a DS that's a current plebe in 2021. I'm not trying to snark or troll anyone, rather, simply to make some simple recommendations that may help future aspiring candidates and their parents.

1. Do use SAF for your more complex questions and observations, especially those that may have negative connotations. Given the experience and vast perspective of the veterans around this site, this is the best place to get your tough questions answered in as 'confidential' a format as possible.
2. Do use a handle that keeps folks from identifying you or your candidate, MIDN, Cadet or otherwise.
3. Do try to be as positive and encouraging as possible with folks, across the board as the whole process is more than stressful enough. That being said, the tough love that occasionally comes from this site's veterans should be taken seriously.

Now a couple obvious do nots and I'll shut up:

1. Don't ever post direct pictures of text messages, laptop views, grades or any other communications directly from your MIDN. Those tend to serve the parents (all of whom are named directly, so very obvious violations of rule #2 above), mainly of the helicopter variety, rather than the person actually in the academy, working their tail off. Nothing positive can happen with such posts, other than a parent reveling in the number of likes and comments, and many, many negative things can happen, most often unforeseen in their consequence.
2. Never celebrate your kid falling out...I saw several pictures this plebe summer of kids on crutches with 'chits' and parents happy that their child was given a couple days off to rest. While there are always legitimately injured folks, which is no shame, there are also notorious 'chit surfers' that lose the respect of their classmates very quickly.
3. Finally, never, EVER ask for help for your MIDN in such an open forum as FB. I watched this fall as a mother said, 'I may or may not be doing the right thing, but my MIDN, whose name is X, in Company X, needs help!' 12 hours later, she had to delete her post after 100 plus comments, and her dear child was completely humiliated and given so much attention that I'm sure he/she were pretty much hating their parent's insecurity by the time it was over. I wanted to go back and answer her first sentence and say 'NO, you are not doing the right thing!'

I'm hoping there are other lessons learned that may be helpful here, hence the thread...when I attended, back in the brown shoe days, there was no internet, so things were far easier. Am hoping those of you who've seen similar situations will chime in.
Great advice, USNA2021_Dad.

While not necessarily facebook related, I'll add that a parent should never ask their mid for access to any USNA-related documents/websites that a civilian would not normally have access to. There was a Midshipman that got fried this fall because they gave their mother their password for MIDS, ostensibly so that she could look at grades, and she promptly used it to look up the company assignments of the incoming class of 2021 for plebe parents in her local parents club. The Academy found out, and her child was punished for giving unauthorized access to a government website.
I am on a parent's FB page for a Service Academy and this is what we sometimes do when a parent has a question/problem - that parent will contact the FB page admin and relay the question. Then that admin will post: An anonymous parent is looking for information about xyz. Or An anonymous parent is wondering about how best to help her plebe in this situation? Or some variation of this.
This way the parent can get the help s/he needs and the cadet remains anonymous.

Parents need to understand that sometimes cadets/mids read the parent FB pages so it's very important to protect your child's privacy.
SAF aside, social media is as much a curse as a blessing. Someday we will all wonder why people were so mad as to get hooked on it.

Never put ANY personally identifiable info on the web - anywhere.

Given the near-zero cost of storing vast amounts of behavioral user data, it's a safe bet that one of the major data companies is storing your info, has cobbled that info into a rich user profile, and will use that for many years to come to make money off of you by sharing it in some form or another with many thousands of ad exchange and other partner companies.

Best practices re digital communications - these are from the corporate world but probably apply well to the military:
- Don't put any communication into a public forum that can be handled in private.
- Don't put any communication into email if it can be conveyed succinctly via text message.
- Don't put any communication in electronic format if it can be conveyed over the phone.
- clear your cache frequently and avoid using FB, G+, Twitter etc. You'll be happier, sleep better and have more free time.
Never put ANY personally identifiable info on the web - anywhere.

I agree, this isn't rocket science. FB allows people who aren't your 'friends' to view posted material. Far too many use social media as some kind of on-line diary. ASSUME others can read it and proceed accordingly. If you don't want it to be public knowledge, don't post it.
DS and the majority of his class are very well aware that the parents have a FB page- so much so that when I ask him general questions, his usual response is " Is that being posted on your parent page"? or " Not everything on that parent page you belong to is the right information".

To the above, I would add one more piece of advice: Remember America is at war, and your social media can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
I have a 21' Plebe and am very aware of the FB posts listed above. I have cautioned DW to NEVER post anything that could be attributed to DD. I have often wondered what these parents were thinking when posting this stuff.
Or An anonymous parent is wondering about how best to help her plebe in this situation?

You know, when many of us went through USNA, there was no Facebook, parents' clubs, cell phones, Skype, Instachat (or whatever), texting, etc.

Somehow, our parents managed. We managed. We figured things out. They figured things out. We survived. And in the end, both mid and parents were probably stronger.

I must confess that I really don't understand the need to fret about everything or solve all of one's child's problems. I had my share of issues at USNA (everyone does) and the LAST thing I wanted was my parents getting involved. In most cases, I never even told them of the issue and instead used the resources at my disposal to address/resolve it. That held me in good stead when I hit the fleet.

Midshipmen are adults, not 8-yr-olds. This is the time in their lives for them to start figuring things out for themselves, which includes figuring out where to go and what to do to solve their own problems. When they are flying a jet and the engine fails, or leading ground troops and are ambushed, or have a collision at sea, mommy and daddy won't be there to help them.

Be a resource (and a valuable one at that) for your children, but please let them be the adults that they now are and let them start fighting (and winning) their own battles.
I've noted similar observations for the FB parent groups associated with the SA in the Rockies. We seen parents posting unverified (and inaccurate) status updates during an active lockdown, a mother asking for guidance on how to deal with the fact that her child was carrying a 1.1 GPA, and the "normal" helicopter parent posts. I continue to be surprised how many of the parent questions could be answered by simply looking at the USAFA Parents page.
a mother asking for guidance on how to deal with the fact that her child was carrying a 1.1 GPA

First question . . . why is this the mother's issue? I can guarantee that, at USNA at least (and presumably at the other SAs), mids are fully informed about all of the educational and other resources available to them. There are folks who help as tutors, folks who help with time management, chaplains and psychologists if those issues arise, etc. Not only that, if someone is carrying a 1.1, the kid's entire chain of command -- from the 3/C to the Company Officer and probably even above that will be very, very aware and very involved in getting that kid the help he/she needs.

This is a perfect example of the child needing to figure things out and the mother needing to stay out of it. There is nothing a parent can do in this situation that someone at the school can't do better -- other than be supportive IF AND WHEN the kid asks for help.

Just MHO.
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Wow...I am not on Facebook, but if you think it is bad at USNA, you should see what leaks out in the fleet...a treasure trove of information for our adversaries via open source collection...

My son was struggling a bit in a Chemistry...found out the old fashioned way via Mark 1 MOD 0 phone call...told him to do what I did when I struggled academically at USNA..go to your professor for EI. Works wonders...
First question . . . why is this the mother's issue?

I fully agree - her DS needs to own this and needs to take advantage of all of the resources available to him (and now that midterm progress reports have been released, the command chain will also help assure that he gets the help he needs).

I was heartened to see that the parental feedback was consistent with yours, but shocked that she posted this information in a public forum. As a result, I'm sure that there are now potentially hundreds of cadets that know about this cadet's situation.
Somehow, our parents managed. We managed. We figured things out. They figured things out. We survived. And in the end, both mid and parents were probably stronger

These are different times. My folks were pretty hands off, dropped me off at the airport to travel to NAPS and to I-Day, and I can only remember calling my Dad once with a problem. I called home weekly (from the stinky phone booths on 7-0). You are right, we survived, and I think suspect the Class bonds are stronger because we all made it through together.

I know Parents are well intentioned, and I struggle with it in my own home, but Social Media and too much communication has become a crutch. For all the parents, your DS /DD are training to become Naval/Marine Corps officers --they wouldn't have gotten to where they are without good core values, but now its time to let them grow. Will they make mistakes on the way ...of course. I once read something that explained that making mistakes was a necessart by product of trying new things, stretching your limits and challenging yourself. Good advice.
A little OT but in line with the above . . . part of becoming an adult is making decisions, some of which won't turn out well. You learn from those bad decisions probably a lot more than from the good decisions. Hopefully, parents raised their kids well enough not to make really bad decisions (i.e., drugs, criminal activity). But trying to save them from making any mistakes is not a long-term strategy for success.

I made some bad decisions as a JO. I learned so much from the fallout of those decisions and know that much of my later "success" in life followed directly from the lessons learned in those early days. Had I not made those mistakes as a JO, I would have made them later in life and the consequences to me and to others would have been much worse.
Social media in general is a detriment to force readiness.

I was talking with a Vietnam vet who trains snipers and he mentioned that his guys struggle daily with staying focused on duty when they've had the wife passively-aggresive complain about the kids, or single parenting, or the plumbing - then have to be their best with all that crawling around in their heads for hours on end.

As a society, instant gratification needs to be curtailed. I know it's not gonna happen, but had to say it!
IMHO - Having a little bit of common sense will guide those cadets to know when to reach out and seek help. The resources are definitely available all over campus. Parents should trust their cadets to get help own their own, if they want to succeed.

God blessed with our children. Along with with heavy dose of TLC, we teach them the lessons of life and make sure they're well-rounded to face the world and making good decisions in life.

It was hard, but after DS got on that bus on I-Day, it's a fact that we accepted - he has grown wings and have left his cozy nest. He's off and is thousands of miles away. The decisions he makes will be his own, good or bad, if bad, he'll learn. It's apart of growing up and learning how to stand on his own two feet and off course, while at USAFA, learn to be a top rate officer.
So... we are using social media (SAF) to gossip and criticize others who use social media? Ironic. ;)

I agree with all posted but offer the following: helicopter and "involved" parents who are suddenly cut off from the information and access need to have an adjustment period also. Families without any familiarity with the academies or the military are obviously not going to understand the chain of command and military culture.

Finally, I hope we can all agree that all these DS and DD will have plenty of opportunities to make decisions (good and bad) and learn from them. Social media and/ or helicopter parents won't change that.
Families without any familiarity with the academies or the military are obviously not going to understand the chain of command and military culture.

And that is the value of the Social Media ...to give parents a resource to learn from those that have been there. I'm not saying that parents won't, and shouldn't worry about their kids. That's normal. However, sometimes the exchange of information (both ways) leads to unnecessary worry and concern. DesertCAMom's comment about the distraction of instant communication rings true ..sometimes its better to be oblivious to the trials and tribulations our kids face.
Good point, USMCGrunt, on even inexperienced parents needing some adjustment/familiarization time...it struck me that the posts were far more serving to the parent than the child. Seeing all the 'likes' and 'replies' to their comments, even when inappropriate/detrimental to the person at the academy, is to difficult to watch, but predictable. And who likes the snarker or troll? Not I, for sure.

I guess it begs the question of how do we, folks with experience and perspective, communicate that to the purveyors of inappropriate comments? I, for one, do not want to add every person on FB to my friends in order to private message them...thoughts?

I guess the way I see it is we are training warriors here, nothing more, nothing less...warriors; vastly different than the mission of most universities so the rules/behavior of everyone involved should be different than just general social media society.
Thanks USNA2021_Dad. I agree with your comments on rules/ behavior. SAF mods and most participants do a great job of self-policing. It seems the "culture" and expectations here are different. I can't comment on the Facebook pages you mention but it sounds as if they were created (or morphed) into much more of a mommy/daddy support network. If the moderators and experienced users don't police it, the site will never change.

I like the USMC boot camp approach of a bus ride onto base, a 15 second phone call home and radio silence thereafter. I don't think we will ever get there at the academies or even ROTC units. :D

If I was waving my magic wand, I would probably try to push the change out via the students by stern warnings about inappropriate postings by parents on FB and other sites. Perhaps there needs to be more "liaison" with parents by the academies (I don't know enough to be dangerous here - just brainstorming!) I have a data point of one: I have a niece who graduated from an Academy. Her mother would call me with questions about the military, if she should call, etc. What seemed like huge problems or issues were a normal part of military life. I was able to talk her off the ledge and prevent her from making her DS's life hell on campus. Obviously, not all families have someone to bounce things off of.

In the end, you can't prevent some parents from being "that" parent, but I would like to think that it could be reduced with some attention.