Pins, posts, tweets: Social media etiquette

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Basically everybody that's a part of Team Whiteman uses social media these days. Our folks are all over Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and probably dozens of other sites I don't even know about.

Not a real news flash, right? Understood. But what you might not know is that our Air Force thinks that's a good thing!

Social media and social networking sites have evolved to become one of the primary communication tools used by today's Airmen -- officers, enlisted and civilians. The dynamic nature of social media allows us to interact with other people in an informal and transparent environment. It also helps showcase all the great things you do all over the globe to audiences who, without these sites, may never realize what it is you do as service members. 

That said, here's a real news flash for some of you: By the nature of your profession you are always on the record and you must always represent our core values -- even online.

Don't believe me? Check out Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, which outlines how Airmen should conduct themselves on social networking sites.

Now, I'm not naïve. Few, if any of you, are going to go grab AFI 1-1 right this second and dig into it - that would be awesome though if you did. So here are some of the highlights of the things you need to know (and can be held accountable for) in relation to social media...

· Any time you engage in social media you are representing the Air Force and are subject to the UCMJ. So even if you state clearly that your opinions don't represent the Air Force, other audiences may not interpret it that way.

· There's a very fine line between funny and distasteful. Be careful what you say. Be careful what pictures you post. You're on duty 24/7 and good order and discipline must always be upheld.

· Remember that security starts at the source. OPSEC is crucial for our mission so you and your families need to think about what you are posting. If a post contains personally identifiable information, sensitive or FOUO information, or anything that could put your teammates at risk, don't post it. If you've already shared something like that, take it down. Our enemies and other predators are on these sites too and they are waiting to take advantage of any slips Airmen and their families make.

· Cyber-bullying occurs often. Sometimes it is even blue-on-blue. So if you see it happening let the base Public Affairs office know or tell your chain of command. Or just come tell me and I'll intervene. 

· Finally, be involved in what your families are posting online.


In the end, we are always Airmen. And all the regulations that normally apply to us also apply when we are using social media. This applies to photos involving alcohol or risky behaviors, sharing questionable or inappropriate material, and even speaking disrespectful words in violation of the UCMJ. You are entitled to your own opinions, but think before you post!