Commentary by Devin Fisher
Garrison Public Affairs Office
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Social media has become so popular that it’s sometimes hard for my generation to remember life without it.
While I grew up in the much simpler “You better be home before the street lights turn on” era, the dawn of the cell phone, and now the smartphone, has totally evolved life as we know it.
Technology has made it possible not only for children to call their parents and inform them of some out-of-their-control event that will make them late getting home, but also entertain them on their slow walk home as they catch up with friends, family, acquaintances and perfect strangers around the globe via social media.
Unfortunately, the lure of social media can be a detriment to people of all ages. U.S. adults spent an average of 45 minutes per day on social media sites, according to The Nielsen Total Audience Report for the first quarter of 2018, sharing information, ideas and messages with anyone and everyone interested. It doesn’t take long to figure out everyone has an opinion, regardless of how few are involved in a conversation. With Statistica.com projecting 2.77 billion social network users around the world in 2019, it’s not hard to realize that some pretty heated conversations can present themselves at any given time.
While it may be human to want to get involved in an online debate, Soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and contractors should keep in mind that participating in or condoning misconduct, to include online, may make them subject to criminal, disciplinary and other corrective action.
In July 2018, the deputy chief of staff, Army G-1, released an All Army Activities (ALARACT) message on the Professionalism of Online Conduct. The message states that the Army Values are a critical component of the Army profession and individuals’ interactions in person and online reflect on the Army and its values. Commanders and leaders have been tasked to reinforce a climate where members of the Army team understand that online misconduct is inconsistent with Army Values.
The G-1 followed up with a Stand To! article on Army.mil in August that defined online misconduct as unacceptable or improper behavior through the use of technology.
Examples include harassment, bullying, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation or any other types of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect. Per the article, “Electronic communication is considered the transfer of information (signs, texts, images, sounds or data) transmitted by computer, phone or other electronic device. Electronic communications include, but are not limited to, text messages, emails, chats, instant messaging, screensavers, blogs, social media sites, electronic device applications and web/video conferencing.”
The Army taking a stand against online misconduct is not new. The Army initiated a “Think, Type and Post” campaign in 2015 to educate and inform the Army Family on the proper use of electronic communications.
The campaign asks Soldiers, civilians and contractors to apply the following rules when engaging in electronic communication:
- Think about the message being communicated and who could potentially view it.
- Type messages consistent with Army Values.
- Post only those messages demonstrating dignity and respect for self and others.
You must recognize that you have no privacy once you post a message. Anything you post can go viral in a matter of seconds. Anybody offended by your post, comment or even shared meme can quickly and easily capture a screenshot of a brief lapse in judgment and next thing you know you are trying to explain it to your chain of command.
The Stand To! article concludes with, “Readiness depends on Soldiers living the Army Ethic and Values, to make them trusted professionals of character, competence and commitment.”
The American people look up to Soldiers who defend this great nation with the utmost respect and admiration. Don’t let a lack in judgment online question the integrity and discipline of those who make up the world’s greatest fighting force and take away from the many who have sacrificed to pave the way for the freedom and benefits you enjoy today as an American Soldier.