Social media in the Navy
Posted by jripslinger
In their article, “Professional and Technical Communication in a Web 2.0 World,” Stuart Blythe, Claire Lauer, and Paul G. Curran (2014) wrote that “the availability of digital and mobile technologies has blurred the lines between personal and professional purposes, and has implications for how we characterize even seemingly inconsequential writing acts such as texing” (p. 282). As social media use evolves, the Navy has implemented policy changes to adapt. Here is my rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the Navy’s and Sailors’ uses of social media platforms.
The Good: Social media platforms have expanded the reach of the Navy’s public affairs offices. For example, here is the link to my command’s Facebook page. It shows pictures of ships providing humanitarian aid following Hurricane Maria and recently promoted Sailors. Commands’ social media pages are invaluable to family members of deployed Sailors so they can see some of the missions their loved ones are doing. Many Sailors prefer to use Facebook Messenger to contact loved ones while deployed or just stuck in a secure space. I have one particular Sailor who will more likely respond to a Facebook message than a phone call.
Many Sailors who are “sponsoring” a prospective gain to the command usually first turn to Facebook to find the new Sailor’s contact information. Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison (2008) learned in their research “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” that many people don’t use social media to find new friends (p. 211), but in the Navy it is common practice to “Facebook stalk” incoming members to the command.
Group texting apps such as WhatsApp also help facilitate communication. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the base was evacuated. My chain of command did a poor job creating group text phone trees, so information flow was spotty. During Hurricane Irma, we created WhatsApp groups and the communication flow was greatly improved.
The bad: Boyd and Ellison (2014) cited Acquisti and Gross (2006), who said “there is often a disconnect between students’ desire to protect privacy and their behaviors” (p. 222). This is true in the Navy as Sailors have been disciplined for documenting their misbehaviors. The most recent case involved two corpsmen (these junior Sailors were misidentified as nurses in some media reports). who used SnapChat to share videos of them making newborns rap and pictures of their middle fingers with the infants. The caption read, “This is how I feel about these mini Satans.” What was likely just a stupid post to blow off some work steam will likely cost these Sailors their careers due to the outrage on social media. The commander of Navy medicine also implemented a new policy prohibiting the use of cell phones in patient care areas.
The ugly: Boyd and Ellison (2008) also discovered that homogeneous populations tend to associate on social media as well (p. 214). In the military, a group of likeminded servicemembers created a site to exchange nude photos of their fellow military members. It prompted the Chief of Naval Operations to make online harassment punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to include sharing intimate photos.
Moving forward, I hope more Sailors, especially the junior ones, can learn from the mistakes of their peers and only use social media for positive purposes.
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