Like all gigantasarus bureaucracies, it sometimes takes the military a while to put out official policies on new topics/subject matters. (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/02/26/military.social.media/index.html) So, it should come as no surprise that only now are U.S. military personnel *officially* allowed to Tweet/Facebook/e-harmonize in ways that relate to their profession. And while all the PR gurus are claiming it's a match made in heaven now, based on my personal experience, I foresee a far rockier relationship ensuing between the Great Camo gods in the sky and social media.
Military structure is designed around control. There are rules, they are clear, and they are to be followed. They flow from the top-down, and on a macro level, are not conducive to interactive feedback from the bottom-up. As we've seen over the past few years though, social media allows interaction to occur between the top and the bottom, taking away control from the middle. Trust me when I say that the middle doesn't like this inability to filter messages. Further, as e-society develops, it's clear that the emo sub-current of expression is a tool utilized constantly and consistently in social media forums, especially amongst the young. Bitching about life/the job/etc. isn't just likely with soldiers at war, it's inevitable. And while the rules may claim only operational security violations will incur Higher's wrath for enterprising military social media-ites, I'm certain that the fine print includes a whole slew of other ways to do it. Like, I don't know. Describing a senior officer in an unflattering light. It's been known to happen, I guess.
If the military is going to successfully embrace social media, rather than having it embrace them - either can occur, because let's face it, even Delta Force can't kill the internet - it's going to have to do something it pays great lip service to, but isn't always great at executing - empowering junior leadership. The Pentagon can't read every blog, Tweet, or status update our brave soldiers/sailors/Marines/air-people produce. But each one of those personnel have a layer of leadership that can. If properly educated, junior leadership in the military can and will harness the beast of social media. Will they fall off, sometimes? Sure, but no rule implementation, no matter how rigidly or loosely enforced, proves perfect.
Big military has rules on underage drinking, but it relies on local leadership to enforce those rules. Social media restrictions should be no different, despite the possibility for high visibility violations. The alternative is to create a high level regulatory mechanism, which will only further the "us vs them" mentality that those on the tactical level feel exists. (Not saying it's true, just that the perception does). And pragmatically, this level of regulation simply won't work, and will only generate more acts of social media rebellion amongst the rank-and-file. (Damn the Man! And such). Official policies are swell and everything, but their direct impact in the trenches is minimal. How those are enforced matters far more. If the military is serious about utilizing social media constructs, it needs to accept the good and the bad now, and teach all levels of leadership what right looks like. If it doesn't, stories like Colby Buzzell's and mine will multiply tenfold.
In other news, I'm hoping to hire Optimus Prime's voice for the audio version of Kaboom. In no way am I kidding.