Social media and academies/armed services

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by MombaBomba, Mar 16, 2015.

  1. MombaBomba

    MombaBomba Member

    Jan 13, 2014
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    I heard a commentator discussing how "remaining quiet and not responding" in order to appear above it all is a tactic that does not work well in this day and age. If you don't express yourself via social media, you can appear as aloof, uncaring, elitist and out of touch. Their premise was social media has had a profound effect upon politics.

    Thinking about that, I wonder what kind of effect has social media had upon our academies and armed services (outside of the security issues). I don't know what it was like pre-social media, as I do not have a military background. Anyone have any insight/thoughts/articles on this?
  2. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006 5-Year Member

    Nov 25, 2007
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    I don't see folks who aren't on social media as aloof, uncaring elitist or out of touch, but I do think they miss an opportunity. If you don't have a presence you're not part of the conversation. That means that you're not only failing to take part or lead discussions, but you're also not able to correct wrong information. The void is filled with something, and sometimes that something is misinformation.

    I can only speak about what I saw while I was in, and I know it has changed since I left the Coast Guard.

    When I started at the Coast Guard Academy there was no myspace (I had to check that, I wasn't sure), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.... etc etc etc. We didn't need social media policies for 4/c cadets. We had AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) after 4/c year and there were some issues with texting on your phone (well before smartphones) if you could text, which many couldn't.

    By the time I graduated Facebook was just coming on scene. There were a number of blog sites and myspace had been around for a few years.

    So the issues that had to me tackled initially. First, OPSEC. Nothing like being on a ship and having a BM3 post on Facebook "Just left GTMO, see you in Key West in four days." Eventually Facebook was blocked. This was before Twitter, so absent email, Facebook was the big offender.

    Second, how did you tackle "freedom of speech" issues. Here's a Facebook profile with a service member in uniform, and he's talking about political issues. That was a little harder to tackle. At first there were very strict rules, but it became clear that they couldn't be enforced, so there were guidelines.

    Third, how could the services use it? The Coast Guard was concerned about people using social media to report emergencies. You ask "what's wrong with that?" Well, those social media accounts aren't monitored 24/7, so you don't want people having the expectation of an immediate response when in reality the collateral duty public affairs officer for a unit is asleep.

    For the academies and services, I think it's been great. Social media has allowed the Coast Guard to communicate directly with the people it serves. Adm. Thad Allen embraced social media. Adm. Papp didn't. Adm. Zukunft has embraced it too. In face, Adm. Z regularly interacts with the public and workforce and has a staff dedicated to his public affairs (beyond the Coast Guard's public affairs office). I think it's been great, just watching from the outside.

    The Coast Guard has a service wide account and other units. Those units follow policy and guidance from above. You can follow the Coast Guard's Facebook or Twitter accounts, largely led by a member of the Coast Guard Academy class of 2007 or follow Coast Guard District 1, led by my classmate. This is repeated across the service. Each district or sector has its own focus.... District 1 may be more focused on fisheries or search and rescue while District 7 may be more focused on alien migrant interdiction operations.

    Now, there are challenges too. How interactive is it? Does it provide an avenue to air someone's dirty laundry? What you'll see is, in addition to positive stories, people who constantly have a bone to pick. The services don't have it as bad though. Go look at the FDA's Facebook page.... read some of those comments.

    All things considered, I think academies and services have benefitted from their activity in the social media world. It's dynamic and ever-changing, and I'm sure it will be a very different landscape in 2020 or 2025 or even a year or two from now.
    MombaBomba and Boozebin like this.
  3. Boozebin

    Boozebin 5-Year Member

    Sep 23, 2010
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    Excellent post on this topic LITS.

    Social Media sites are very powerful tools to get information out quickly and to a widely dispersed population. And just like any tool it can be used wisely or it can be used poorly. You have to be very conscious of what your message is and how people will respond especially as an organization. You throw in something as visible/highly watched as the military and you have to be even more careful.

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