Social media has changed the way we communicate and interact with people. It can be a positive thing - it's a good way to stay in touch with family and friends, share information and even be a source of encouragement for others.
But there’s a potentially ugly side to social media, where individuals take part in inappropriate and potentially harmful interactions online, hiding behind the sense of anonymity and lack of accountability that social media provides.
Cyber-bullying and retaliation are two such social media actions that have become an issue Army-wide, and are of particular concern to me as Superintendent. Through social media, individuals can anonymously make disparaging remarks about another and, hiding behind the same anonymity, threaten an individual with retaliation if he or she tries to report the issue.
This leads to an atmosphere where the threatened individuals remain silent for fear of reprisal. This type of atmosphere is unacceptable at West Point or anywhere in our Army. Reprisal alienates and polarizes within a unit, and undermines trust.
Participating in or condoning harassment, bullying, hazing, stalking, discrimination, retaliation, and any other type of misconduct that undermines dignity and respect are not consistent with Army Values. As leaders of character, we should treat each other with dignity and respect and create unit climates where every member of the team feels value added, safe and secure, both physically and emotionally.
Just as your behavior in public is a reflection on West Point, the Corps of Cadets and the Army, so is your behavior online. Unfortunately, social media allows us to live with a set of values online that is different from the values we would live in public. But that is not what America expects of us as leaders who have entrusted us with their own sons and daughters. Army leaders live both public and private lives consistent with the values of Duty, Honor, and Country as well as the Army values that include respect, integrity and personal courage. Honorable living and being a leader of character is a 24-hour-a-day/7-day-a-week endeavor. Character and integrity doesn’t have an on/off switch. We shouldn’t live and act one way in public and live and act then an entirely different way in private.
I'm counting on each and every member of the West Point team to hold yourselves accountable and set the standard for appropriate and acceptable behavior on social media. Let’s work together to protect each other and tackle these issues to retain a culture of professionalism; both off and online.
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr.