Managing the Risks of Social Media Amongst Military Personnel

social mobile

In our recently published paper, Capability in the Digital, we suggested that the risks generated by military personnel engaging in social media use are predominantly negotiated by managing individual military personnel.

In this post, we wanted to draw attention to the similar management of social media risk by the US military as stated at the recent Social Media within Defence and the Military Conference.

According to Twitter updates that captured the conference presentations, Juanita Chang (@juanitachang)– a member of the US Army social media team – stated that the US military manage social media risks by educating military personnel how to use social media sensibly.

She suggested that as part of this strategy the US military were attempting to build an institutional culture of best practice by issuing rules and regulations around social media use and encouraging senior commanders to lead by example.

What is interesting about this method of management – as we outline in our own article – is that by virtue of being unable to control the social media technology, or track the online activities of military personnel, this approach emphasises the responsibility of the individual to engage in safe, everyday social media practice both within a military setting but also beyond it.

For us, this raises critical questions as to whether such an approach takes full account of how individual military personnel understand and use social media as both a member of the military and a private citizen in the context of the everyday, mundane and ubiquitous social media environment.

Preliminary findings from the final strand of the DUN Project – where we conducted focus groups with UK military personnel – suggest that individual understandings of social media risks are both sophisticated and comprehensive.

At the same time, however, their understandings of risk are also complicated by their desire to ‘be connected’ and part of the social media world at a domestic and social level.

We will be publishing these findings in due course, but here we pose two questions.

Does the UK and US military’s emphasis on the inculcation of military personnel to be ‘digitally responsible’ fully embrace the complexities of their actual social media use?

And is it possible to educate service personnel to be constantly aware of the risks of social media when these are being continuously negotiated – and at times compromised – by the very (social) opportunities that social media offers them?

Please feel free to comment on this post below.


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