Politics, social media, and the military
Politics and social media have a dysfunctional relationship. The real-time response that politicians receive can be heartwarming, cynical, and at times quite nasty. The beauty about social media with platforms such as Twitter is that the connection… or disconnection… is immediate. While the general public can indulge in all types of political activities, the military cannot. I think what most people forget is that military service members are bound by a contract, and in that contract, the member is bound to represent that entity 24/7, 365 days out of the year.
The military, social media, and politics – that relationship is more like throwing water at a grease fire. My experience is that it’s highly frowned upon to engage in social media while you’re on active duty. The reasons are many, mainly because of operational security. Sometimes posting amazing pictures about the beautiful beach you’re about to visit, it’s not the smartest idea ever.
However, social media has become the go-to resource for a lot of 18-29 year olds, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. The relationship between social media and the military has been evolving and with this research the Department of the Navy (DoN) took the opportunity to remind its sailors and marines the Do’s and Don’ts for Voicing Your Political Opinion on Social Media.
One point the Navy made in their Do’s and Don’ts reminder is that “active-duty Sailors can like or follow accounts of a political party or partisan candidate, campaign, group or cause. However, they cannot suggest that others like, friend, or follow them or forward an invitation or solicitation.” It’s like separation of church and state. Sailors are able to say they are Republican, but they can’t ask anyone to follow in their footsteps, especially if money or endorsements are exchanged.
The military does not want to infringe upon the service member’s personal rights, but since they serve and represent the military, sailors must abide by the establishment’s rules. It goes on to say, “active-duty service members are subject to additional restrictions based on the Joint Ethics Regulation, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and rules about the use of government resources and government communications systems, including email and internet.”
All military service members are bound by the contract they signed at beginning of their service. Ultimately, they answer to their commander-in-chief. The military doesn’t have the same freedoms and privileges that the rest of us do. It’s a conflict of interest for any service member to speak for or against a candidate, because essentially you’re speaking against your future boss.
This election cycle promises one thing: to be an emotionally packed event. Everyone’s thoughts and opinions are broadcast as events happen. It can be funny, outrageous, and downright scary to read some of these comments posted on Twitter. The military doesn’t need to add to the fire. With the presidential candidates embracing Twitter, using it to reach millions of Americans, they have opened up the conversation to an entire generation that would have been clueless to their views on the issues. Social media and politics can be a volatile combination, but the good thing is that combination allows the reader see all points of view from everyone around the world.
Unfortunately, the situation keeps the Armed Forces from fully participating and exercising all the rights that we enjoy as citizens. There are good reasons behind it and even though they will be greatly effected by the person who will take office in the near future, voting is the best option to be active in this election cycle.