Marines, NFL in assault on Twitter, Facebook?

In what might seem to some like a concerted assault by the forces of tradition on social media, the Marines and certain NFL teams have reportedly banned Twitter and Facebook.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Alright now, you know-it-alls, show-it-alls, and tell-it-alls. It's time you people learned a little discipline, a little social decorum, a little good old fashioned discretion.

So here are the rules. No more Twittering. No more friending. And definitely no more updating people on your latest moods, feelings, lovers, and hangnails.

Yes, in what seems like a concerted effort on the part of traditional culture, two highly similar organizations, the Marines and the NFL, have decided to fight back against all the careless talk.

They have each reportedly begun to ban Twitter and Facebook.

Let's start with the Marines. According to CNN, a Marine Corps order has made the Corps' feelings known with characteristic subtlety: "These Internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user-generated content, and targeting by adversaries."

The enemy is lurking, Facebookers and Twitterers. Leave now.

The Marines' ban is supposed to last a year, after which time, presumably, it will be reassessed. And the Corps is extremely concerned about worms, Trojans and other items with nefarious purposes infecting its space.

However, this ban is not without its awkward strategic moments.

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has, as of Tuesday, 4,423 followers on Twitter. (He's following Katie Couric, but not Bill O'Reilly, by the way.) Will he, too, fall under a Marine-style ban if it becomes military-wide?

This picture of the Marines did not come from Facebook or Twitter. Honest. CC Sister 72/Flickr

There is, indeed, some doubt as to whether the ban has actually been enacted.

Thanks to Admiral Mullen's Twitter feed, I lucked upon a feed called Milblogging, which collates important military news and information.

It referred me to Wired.com, which quoted Price Floyd, the social-networking czar of the military, as saying that no decision had yet been made on a military-wide basis.

So have the Marines created an advance party before everyone else? It appears so.

Which leads us to the pioneers, at the NFL. The New York Times informs us that certain NFL teams appear to be chop-blocking social networking square in the back of the knees.

At the beginning of training camp, Green Bay Packers players were apparently told that they would be fined $1,701 (the NFL maximum) for texting or tweeting during a team function.

The Miami Dolphins do have their own Twitter page. But coach Tony Sparano, according to the Times, told players to lay off the tweets in order not to create additional distractions.

It's quite enough with NFL players taking guns to clubs (Plaxico Burress), organizing dog-fighting rings (Michael Vick), mowing down and killing pedestrians while drunk (Dante Stallworth), and showering strippers with cash and Cristal (Pac Man Jones). Who needs more socially dubious distractions?

But here's where the Marines and the NFL are very different.

Even though there are those who believe there are no secrets anymore, one can at least imagine that evildoers might scour the Marine personnel's personal sites for nuggets of information or vulnerability.

On the other hand, some might think that NFL players' behavior in tweeting from the locker room, the sidelines or even during games (as the Bengals' Chad Ocho Cinco threatened to do before the NFL said no) is just plain rude.

Yes, they might inadvertently reveal an ankle injury. But not half as much as they reveal their lack of class.

But an NFL player's career can be painfully short.

The average running back lasts perhaps three years. And very few players have contracts that guarantee them much more than this year and the next. So perhaps it's unsurprising that some players want to market themselves in any and every way they can in such a cynical environment.

One that is epitomized surely by college football coaches, some of whom have decided to tweet during games for one sole reason--to find a neat way around the NCAA rules regarding contact with recruits.

This behavior shows that the "here's what I'm feeling right now" culture is not confined to players, but to their bosses, too--if it suits their purposes.

Organizations that are based on values such as discipline and secrecy are not exactly well-suited to social networking.

It will be fascinating to see how they deal with this social phenomenon as time goes on--if they really manage to deal with it at all.