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Social Media vs. Old School

March 7, 2012

the last Apparatchik

the last Apparatchik (Photo credit: Metaphox)

I belong to a bunch of different professional groups. Some of these groups focus on Special Forces, some on Electronic Warfare, some on Information Operations and yes, even a few focusing on motorcycles (my third great love).  One of these groups met yesterday, I gave them a presentation about Social Media and steps to take to avoid security problems.

As I gave the presentation it occurred to me that many, if not most, of our security apparatchnik (sorry, old Soviet term I’ve grown to love meaning apparatus) folks are very much “old school” when it comes to the internet. The people to whom I was presenting had faithfully listened to their security folks and had avoided Social Media – because their security folks had scared the heck out of them. “We’re going to lose our security clearance if we create a Facebook account.” Wrong, and I told them why, and better yet, what things to be aware of and avoid. “What if a ‘bad guy’ tries to ‘friend’ us?” Don’t accept. I also sent them a document shared with me by a good friend: what steps to take to protect your Facebook settings. Did you know there are 120 privacy settings on your Facebook account? I also shared with them many other pitfalls of Facebook, especially that everything you put online, stays online – forever.

LinkedIn deserves a special ‘call out’. I love LinkedIn, it has really allowed me to network and touch a lot of folks in my field. I’m an IO guy, so that includes folks working in big IO.  It also includes folks in Electronic Warfare, in Cyber Security, in offensive warfare in cyberspace, in military deception, in Military Information Support Operations, which used to be psychological operations. It also includes information warfare, public diplomacy, strategic communication (no s), human terrain system, persuasion, influence and others. I also include marketing and public relations. LinkedIn is fairly cool because they have a whole slew of discussion groups, some are very good.  Right now I’m involved in a Strategic Communication group discussing Information Operations and the discussion has been very illuminating. Same thing here, for instance.  I only share what I do not want an adversary to know.

As I’ve stumbled through the discovery process of social media I have also uncovered a myriad of problems, the source of the fears of ‘old school’ people with social media. I got a phone call from a great friend in the Pentagon that someone was posing as a PSYOP senior and trying to make contacts through LinkedIn. I caught a glimpse of the picture and immediately knew who it was and called him, he shut his own account down to do damage control, while I contacted LinkedIn and shut down the spoofed account. The spoofer had even copied my friend’s picture.  Beware of posers.  Just two days ago I sent a friend a note that one of the members of their group was, in fact, most likely a foreign intelligence operative after seeing their very suspicious profile. They were thrown out of the group and couldn’t mine the membership list for more information.

Old school people really have the advantage over the new generation in many ways.  After decades working in their field they have established close and personal relationships with other seniors in their field and they can pick up the phone at almost anytime and not feel they are intruding, if the other is not in a meeting. Their conversation will start out friendly, asking about the wife and kids and ‘how’s that new barbeque pit?’ Then they’ll briefly discuss business.  Briefly, because they have a long history of these discussions.  Then they’ll promise to meet, which they will. Then they’ll hang up the phone and finish the business at hand, on their desk. Their relationships are personal and deep, whereas social media relationships are shallow and flitting. The increasing number of friends or contacts is where the younger generation claims their value.  Eventually, as they mature, the younger folks will develop deep, close and personal relationships with a select few of their peers and will also become ‘old school’ themselves.

When I was young I thought I knew it all.  I didn’t think my parents understood as much as I now know they did.  Social media is new, it’s happening and it has created a brand new way of establishing relationships on both a personal and professional level.  What was old has become new again.

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