Your high school reunion.
Your best friend's new baby.
Your sister's birthday party.
You'll never see those pictures because you're in the military and the Department of Defense wants to turn off Facebook and Twitter for our troops according to a great story by Noah Shachtman in Wired.
If you want to stay in touch, email isn't good enough any more. Those pictures aren't being emailed around -- they are being shared on Facebook. Facebook is a conversation where you can talk to a lot of people and find out what everyone else is doing. Being stuck without social media is like not being invited to the party -- you get to sit home and hope someone sends you a snapshot the next day. You and your grandparents can wait for the weekly phone call from home while the rest of the world moves on without you. Oh, wait -- Grandma is on Facebook, too.
Now you're not just shipped off, you're shut off.
This is much worse for the troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and at sea who have no other way to connect.
The ban is going to hurt morale. "An Army of One -- and We Mean You, By Yourself." This ban is going to hurt recruiting. "Join The Navy, See The World, And Don't Speak To Your Friends for Six Months At A Time."
On top of this, it's not going to work. Everyone has access to a $99 iPhone, texting, and the Web. The Iranian government couldn't stop Twitter. We'll look like idiots for trying.
Social media is not a new security risk. Anyone dumb enough to reveal sensitive data by social media can already do it on the phone and by email. But there is a need to increase training and update policies. This is something we work on with global companies every day at the Social Media Business Council.
If the DoD wants to avoid security risks from social media, they need to increase its use. Get everyone familiar with it and train them on proper procedures. Move it underground and you guarantee leaks.
In 1942, Time Magazine took the War Department to task for failing to get mail out on time: "I know for a fact that in the middle of a battle, with stuff dropping all around them, men will put the mail call ahead of the mess call." Sixty-seven years later, the issue is the same, only the technology is different.
Support our troops: Let them stay in touch with friends and family.
Update 2: Great coverage of this story from around the web:
- The Few, The Proud, The Marines Are Banned from Social Media Sites: Frank Reed, Marketing Pilgrim
- US Marines Banned From Social Media Sites: Pete Cashmore, Mashable
- Marines Ban Social Network Sites: David Gelles, Financial Times
- For US Marines, a ban on Twitter and Facebook: Christian Science Monitor, Matthew Shaer