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The Unintended Consequences of Social Media, Career Ender

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Fox News recently released an article about social media and the Army. See Full Article Here.

It’s a Long Weekend at Fort Anyplace

You and a few friends decide to get together and kick back, enjoy the PlayStation and the latest “Call to Duty” sequel.  The action is intense, alcohol is flowing and everything is GROOVEY.  Next thing you know some young lady’s enter the scene.  As the evening progresses and the alcohol flows you begin to prank each other, take some photos, at some point people are topless and photos are being snapped.  Comments are made and someone becomes offended.  Then everything calms down we are all friends again and we all drift off to sleep thinking everything is cool…

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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  • Mark Gerecht


    The unintended consequences of Social Media strikes again! Recently a Soldier avoided saluting the flag by hiding in her car. Then posted her comments on Social Media. Unfortunately the attention she got was not what she expected. She the full article here is the link to the full Article: Soldier avoids Salute-Sets off Online Outrage
    It is unfortunate Soldiers must learn from the School of Hard Knocks.

    • Eck



      I understand the outrage over this young Soldier’s post and I think she should be punished for her actions. But my thoughts go a little further.

      What she did is a disgrace to the uniform and everyone before her who has worn it. However, she needs to be educated and given the opportunity to overcome her shortcomings. This is a prime opportunity for her NCO’s to educate her on the importance of discipline and customs and courtesy. Posting this on Facebook was extremely stupid and immature. However, I have witnessed NCO’s and Officers making sure they stay inside until retreat is over or rushing into a building to not get caught outside when the trumpet blows.

      Incidentally, even when indoors, military members are supposed to stand at attention and face the direction of the flag when retreat sounds. How many military members have seen this happen? I have only seen this enforced at one battalion I was in on a TRADOC base.

      While her actions are inexcusable, she did nothing different than many military members senior to her do on a daily basis (not hiding in a car specifically, but avoid being caught outside during retreat). Her biggest issue was blatantly posting it on Facebook. She is a young Soldier who needs to be educated and have NCOs to mentor her to become a productive Soldier who is proud of her country and the uniform she is allowed to wear.

      • Mark Gerecht


        You bring up some good points. I think what this incident highlights, is young Soldiers expressing their immaturity and lack of experience to an audience without understanding the unintended consequences. If she would have done this like the other Soldiers you describe the impact is basically on her and the leader that allows it (if applicable). By broadcasting her message to a large community and then adding a layer of arrogance to her post fueled the audience to become enraged, consequently had she do this and not posted the event to Social Media the event would have most likely gone unnoticed. This Soldier’s actions reached major new media outlets and I do not believe that was her intent however the unintended consequences of her actions had a far reach impact not just on the Army but on the American public. If 100 Soldiers a day across post stay inside during retreat or duck for cover in their car their actions impact them and their leadership. Their actions are not appropriate. If one Soldier broadcasts their actions and it is picked up by major news media outlets it is a bad day for a lot of people. Should the command impose UCMJ? That is up to the commander and he/she should consider the age, maturity, experience, and performance of this Soldier. This Soldier definitely needs to learn from this experience, how much punishment or corrective training she receives should depend upon what is appropriate to ensure she understands that regardless of the situation she is responsible for her actions. Perhaps the biggest lesson here should be KEEP YOUR PRIVATE LIFE PRIVATE! and understand that your actions when broadcasted in Social Media can have a tremendous impact upon you and others! Perhaps a portion of her corrective training could be, if the Soldier truly feels remorse, allow the Soldier to broadcast a heartfelt apology for her actions along with whatever action the chain of command believes appropriate. I imagine the Soldier would have to volunteer to make the broadcast as I do not believe the command could order that under corrective training!


  • Tim W


    Unlike a poor performance counseling statement, content you post on social media does not “go away”. Just deleting a post you no longer want folks to see does not ensure it is truly gone. You cannot scrub the internet of your pics, blogs, or alcohol induced tirades.

    While the Army now embraces Soldier’s individualism, they also want you to think before posting. A couple suggestions…
    1. Don’t post under the influence or anyone without clothing
    2. Ask yourself why you are posting, what’s the purpose?
    3. Post only to sites you visit regularly
    4. Would your immediate family approve of it?

    The shelf life for a poor social media posting is much longer than you think.

  • MSG O



    Great Article. These situations happen often. Portraying unprofessional Values is a representation of not only you but the Military as well.

  • Anonymous


    Great article! Social Media is very dangerous and can end careers quickly not only in the Military but in the Civilian world as well. Great Article to share with folks…thanks for sharing!!

  • Part Time Commander


    I’m on Facebook every day to promote my businesses and websites. I have lots of friends who are Soldiers, many of whom have a photo of them in uniform as their profile pic.

    You would be absolutely amazed at how many of these Soldiers talk religion and politics on Facebook. They mock the President, politicians, and talk about some CRAZY things going on in their personal life. They talk about how much booze they drank last night, who they “hooked up” with over the weekend, and much more.

    While I think it’s good to have a private life, and have your own set of beliefs, I do not believe you should express those things on Facebook at any time WHILE you are in the military. It’s just not worth risking your career for something stupid. Keep your personal life to yourself or wait until you retire and then speak your mind.

    Just my two cents.

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