Facebook group to servicemembers: Don’t be an idiot on social media
By JON HARPER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 2014
WASHINGTON — A new Facebook group created Tuesday is slamming servicemembers who post controversial photos and comments on social media.
The group — Military Social Media Idiots — has one message: “If you are wearing the uniform, DON’T POST PICTURES OF YOURSELF THAT WILL DISGRACE THE UNIFORM.”
The group’s mission is to expose servicemembers who post these kinds of images and comments so that the offenders will get punished and others will be deterred from such activity, according to the administrators.
“I’m going to put a stop to this one way or another,” the page creator(s) said. “If you have a screenshot of a soldier or other military serviceman disgracing the uniform, please message the page. We may or may not post it. Please give details of where it was posted.”
Photos on the site show servicemembers doing a variety of things that many would consider inappropriate for someone in uniform to be doing on social media, including:
- Posing in states of undress.
- Grabbing their crotch while saluting
- Using profanity and racially charged language.
Going forward, the group will focus on the most egregious cases.
“There is WAY too many photos of people posing with their shirts off to even contemplate, so we’re just going to go after those who [are serious offenders],” the administrators wrote Wednesday.
The image that first appeared on the site is a screenshot of an Instagram post made by Pfc. Tariqka Sheffey, whose uses the handle “sheffeynation,” in which she suggests that she avoided a flag ceremony.
Sheffey posted a photo of herself with the following caption:
“This is me lying on my back in my car hiding so I don’t have to salute the 1700 flag. KEEP ALL YOUR “THAT’S SO DISRESPECTFUL/HOW RUDE/ETC.” COMMENTS TO YOURSELF, cuz, right now, IDGAFFFF.”
An official at Fort Carson, Colo., where Sheffey is stationed, said in an email that Sheffey’s command is aware of her social media post and they are reviewing potential courses of action.
Military Social Media Idiots has already struck a chord with many members of the military community. Their Facebook page has gotten more than 10,000 ‘likes’ as of Thursday morning, a day after the site was created.
The group has some advice for servicemembers who are active on social media.
“If you are a person considering making a career in the military … think really hard about what you post. When you become a leader, your picture showing up on the internet half naked is going to completely undermine your ability to lead, ESPECIALLY if you are a female leading male soldiers … You want to take sexy pictures of yourself and send it to your girlfriend? Great, go for it. Just don’t post them on instagram, facebook, twitter, tumbler, whatever. When you do, it is out there for the world to see. Regardless of your privacy settings.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has expressed concerns that current and future servicemembers don’t realize the potential for social media to ruin their military careers.
“I worry a bit about … the young men and women who are now in their teens, early teens, and who probably underestimate the impact of their persona in social media and what impact that could have later in life on things like security clearances and promotions and selections,” he said at a veterans conference in Washington in December.
Brett Griffith, a former servicemember who commented on the page, said soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who post inappropriate pictures are unworthy of wearing the uniform.
“The ONLY pictures I have of myself in Uniform are me wearing it properly with nothing but PRIDE in myself and my former Unit ... Those who wear it improperly or have no respect for it, do not need to be granted the HONOR of putting it on,” he wrote.
The administrators posted the following message from a “fan” of the group:
“You must ensure your virtual conduct is as patriotic and honorable as the service you represent.”
Some commenters questioned the way the administrators are pursuing their goals.
“I feel like [the page] is being run by [someone] that is just trying to nail soldiers for dumb stuff when most of this stuff should be handled by their team leaders and squad leaders. When I was in the Army I always had that mentality that if my soldiers were [expletive] up, let me handle it. Don’t outsource to others,” said David Lynch, a retired Army soldier.
Another commentator, Adam Pellin, also criticized the site.
“I can see the point of this page. But it’s sad that a page like this actually exists. Putting these [people] on display for everyone to see I think may inadvertently have a negative effect. You say they are disgracing the uniform in a public forum, so how is sharing their pictures to even more people going to help?”
Others praised the group.
“I am a fan of the site and hope it helps deter Soldiers from making career ending social media mistakes, both the Soldiers who post outrageous photos and the Soldiers whose comments also constitute career ending social media mistakes,” wrote Eileen Hernandez, an Army officer.
The administrators defended their exposure strategy.
“[We’re doing it this way] because obviously it is NOT being handled in house,” they wrote.
Social media posts of servicemembers doing inappropriate things have recently triggered high-profile investigations and suspensions of the personnel involved.
Stars and Stripes reported on two controversial photos that went viral on social media earlier this month, including one depicting an airman pretending to make out with the POW/MIA emblem and another showing National Guard soldiers posing disrespectfully in front of a military funeral training casket. The military has launched investigations into both cases.
“Commenting, posting or linking to material that violates the UCMJ or basic rules of Soldier conduct is prohibited,” Army Staff Sgt. Dale Sweetnam of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs said in a press release in February 2012. “It is important that all Soldiers know that once they log on to a social media platform, they still represent the Army … The best way to think about it is, if you wouldn’t say it in formation or to your leader’s face, don’t say it online.”