Question most often in my inbox?
It’s like OPSEC, but if the fear wasn’t security but instead, discipline.
The short answer is no, not really.
But life rarely works in short answers.
I’ve touched on this before, but I’m going to go ahead and give the rules I use that help clear up some confusion. (These are MY rules. So hold no weight. Like, at all.)
1. What you re-post is actually important.
Whether it is something you made yourself or shared from someone else, posting something tells people you agree with it (unless you explicitly state otherwise).
Make sure you agree with what you post so strongly that you would be willing to defend it, and that it’s never anything that violates OPSEC, PERSEC, information security or is illegal or threatening.
2. What you say is attached to your name.
Some people comment on facebook or twitter or news articles. A lot. On everything.
Sometimes on pages, on groups, on friends statuses.
We get it, you guys have OPINIONS and free time. And you enjoy letting people know.
That’s fine if that’s your thing. Some days the Internet wins and I post comments, too.
I almost always regret it.
But remember a couple things about your comments:
- You are talking to real people. Real human beings sitting at their own computers or phones, with real lives and real feelings you know nothing about.
- You are also a real person. And even IF you were to get a fake account simply for the purpose of posting mean and hurtful things without getting caught, it is still possible to get caught. But most of you don’t, you use your personal facebook, twitter, etc. And you know what? People see what you post. The Internet is a big place. Post what you want, when you want, but assume always that it can be seen by everyone and they know who you are.
- Real People Include: Soldiers of another trade, rank or branch then you or your spouse. Soldiers that are of a different gender. Spouses of those soldiers. Officer’s wives. Privates wives. Soldiers who had to sit this deployment out. Wives who enjoy attending Mess Dinners. Wives who hate military functions. MOMS WHO PARENT DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU. What you say to them, to everyone, matters.
3. There’s no such thing as a private Internet.
I feel like I should be in 300 now
If what you post can be seen by anyone, it can be screen saved, copied, shared, re-posted and otherwise used in ways you did not intend. Private messages can be saved. “Private” groups end up with hurt feelings and someone starts sharing your posts. Group screenshots can be taken. And if you post in a group that SAYS it’s for military spouses, that has thousands of members, it can be seen by far more people than you realize and guaranteed, one of them doesn’t agree with you.
Nothing is sacred on the Internet. There’s no such thing as ‘off limits’. Everyone is playing by different rules than you are.
4. What you say has consequence.
If you are a military member, you should be aware of the rules regarding your conduct in public.
And guess what?
The Internet? It’s public.
If you are not a military member, if you are a spouse of one, the rules are less clear.
Obviously, you can say whatever you want.
If you want to use names, dates and places online while tearing a strip down your husband’s chain of command, that is up to you. No one can stop you from your Charter rights to freedom of speech. I know you know this, you say it all the time. It usually sounds like:
“The Army/Navy/Airforce can’t tell me what to do/say! I am my own person! I am not in the military! I can say whatever the hell I want and no one can stop me!”
And you are right. Aside from illegal threats or security breaches, your words can’t/should not get your spouse in trouble.
But if your husband had a civilian job and you took to a public forum to personally disgrace his superiors, to publicly complain about his work environment, his pay or his boss’s wife, there may very well be consequences. Going to work to face the boss your spouse publicly bawled out is hard, whether those words came in person or online.
It might be worth it to you, it might not, but let’s not pretend our words carry no weight just because they are typed instead of spoken.
And be absolutely positively sure that you are sharing only the complete truth about the situation you are mad about. Because exaggeration or outright lies to make things seem worse? They get disproven fast and soon, you are discredited and the concern you actually had doesn’t get noticed.
* If you feel you have no choice but to speak out, then do so. Please don’t take what I say generally to mean that you can never speak badly about the CAF. That’s not the case. I’m only making the point that our words have real weight and consequence that need to be considered, even online.*
5. Consider those you write about.
No one will ‘get in trouble’ if you post comments, facebook statuses or tweet about the douche you think your husband, his friends, his boss, his friends wives, your friends, the ladies you work with or your parents are.
But consider how you would feel if you knew they posted the same about you. And if they do, I guess I challenge you to consider who should try and be the bigger person and just stop.
If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t type it on a screen as though, somehow, that makes it less hurtful.
I write, publicly, about my life.
I over share, I use social media, I like interacting with people online and in person.
No one is telling anyone they have to be quiet, stop speaking or keep opinions to themselves.
No matter how many posts I have with kittens or Monster in various costumes for my own amusement, it’s not about shutting anyone up as much as I’m sure some people wish I would.
When pondering this post, I had the opportunity to consult a civilian police officer as well as two soldiers, all who had been involved in prosecuting disciplinary action over online posts.
They all said the same thing when I asked what the rules are.
The rules for the Internet are the same as the rules in real life.
If you typed it, you said it.
And those typed words carry just as much weight and consequence as spoken ones, only they come with a catch.
They can be retrieved, saved and shared later.
Words have value, friends. Let’s use them wisely.