How to Ensure Your Social Media Reflects Your Values
Is a bruised ego worth maintaining your honor and integrity?
Social media is the new battle ground for many service members, veterans, and millions of others. It provides a sense of connection and sometimes even purpose.
Once connections are made, we feel a sense of reward when our ideas and opinions are cheered by others. However, if we aren’t careful, that ego boost can overshadow our values.
It breaks my heart to see old friends and colleagues — including fellow service members who trained me to be a Soldier, mentored me on being a good leader, and literally instilled in me the Army Values — mock and attack others. They post things without apparent thought or care they are hurting people and contributing to the divisiveness in our country. Sometimes they seem to revel in doing so.
All service members agree to risk their lives defending the security and integrity of our country and constitution. Yet far too many of us are unwilling to risk our egos. We see everything through the lens of our ideas and opinions. We’re influenced by anyone who reinforces those ideas and opinions. Then, to protect our ego, we refuse to consider the possibility we might be wrong.
This plays out constantly on social media. Some of us actively post and share ideas and opinions while others more passively seek validation. Regardless, we strive to protect our egos. We look for anything that reinforces our ideas and opinions and avoid anything counter to them.
Many ideas and opinions, right or wrong, are harmless, but when ideas and opinions are counter to our values, they contribute to the tearing apart of communities and society itself. We compromise or abandon our values for fear of being wrong. While we’re protecting our egos, the world is burning around us.
Here’s a question for my fellow service members and veterans (and any citizen, for that matter): What would you risk to ensure the safety and security of our country? What about to ensure the best possible world for your children, grandchildren, and all future generations?
If you were willing to risk your life for your country, are you now willing to risk a bruised ego to ensure your ideas and opinions are not compromising your values?
For our country to survive the crises we’re facing today, we must live according to our values. That means risking a bruised ego, which I consider a small price to pay. I’m asking you to commit to that same risk for the sake of our country and its future.
Toward that end, consider these questions:
- When did you last consider your values?
- What are the values by which you want to live?
- How are your beliefs, opinions, words, and actions supporting those values?
- How are your beliefs, opinions, words, and actions counter to those values?
As a Soldier, I agree to uphold the Army values in everything I say or do. The Army values are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. I strive to live these values every minute of every day. Of course, I’m human, which means I sometimes fail. When I do, I try to make amends, learn from the experience, and prepare to do better next time.
Here’s what that looks like for me from a social media standpoint. When preparing to post something on Facebook, Medium, Twitter, or elsewhere — including a response to someone else’s post — I stop to consider:
- How does this post reflect my values?
- How does it reflect loyalty and duty to my country?
- Will this put the best interest of my country ahead of a partisan position or ideology?
- How does it show honor and respect to other Americans who may hold different views than me?
- How does this post show integrity, or is it being hypocritical?
- How does this post add value to my network, community, and country?
- How does it build and strengthen relationships?
- What are the second and third order effects of posting?
- What are other points of view I may not have considered?
Loyalty and duty to our country means the entire country, not just those who agree with us or hold the same political or ideological beliefs.
Respect means respecting everyone, which means listening to and considering the views and opinions of everyone, including those with whom we disagree and those we dislike.
Integrity means keeping an open mind and thinking critically about important issues and events; it means acknowledging and accounting for our biases; it means holding ourselves to the same standards as others and holding ourselves accountable for our words and actions and their consequences.
Personal courage means standing up to others when their actions are a threat, but it also means standing up to our friends when they step over the line and compromise their values. Personal courage demands we risk bruising our own ego to consider the possibility of being wrong and to admit when we are.
Selfless service means putting the best interests of others before our own; it means making amends when our words or actions have harmed others; it means setting aside our own biases and beliefs to consider those of others and how our words and actions can cause others pain and suffering.
Honor means doing all these things all the time.
If you’re a service member you can’t abandon these values. If you’re a military veteran, you can choose to continue living these values or maybe adopt new ones.
Non-service members must have values as well. Regardless of your values, you must strive to live them in all you do. Just because others are not living their values doesn’t mean you can pick and choose. Instead, set the example.
Poll after poll show Americans trust service members more than nearly any other group. We must show what it looks like to live by our values. When we discover our ideas and opinions are counter to our values, we need to rethink our ideas and opinions, because values must take precedence.
More than anything else, it is our egos — in the form of the dopamine rush from being proved right or hearing others applaud our ideas and opinions — that cause us to compromise our values.
Our egos push us to confirm our biases by staying in echo chambers that reflect those biases. Our egos prompt us to follow and friend those who reinforce our biases while avoiding those who would counter them. Our egos trigger our adrenaline when our biases, ideas, and opinions are threatened.
It’s hard to defend against our own egos, but it is possible.
Rather than remain in our echo chambers, we must seek out diverse perspectives and opinions. Rather than get angry when seeing something with which we disagree, we need to start a conversation; but we must do so without defending our ideas and opinions. We can’t simply make excuses or try to counter other’s opinions. Instead, we must commit to listening and ask questions to help understand those other perspectives.
Would you risk your life to save that of another? Would you try to save a drowning child or rescue a person from a burning vehicle? Would you run through enemy fire to protect a wounded comrade?
Most of us who served or continue to serve in the military did so to protect and defend our country. Today’s greatest threat is not from outside our borders.
The threat is from those working to pull us apart, and they are leveraging our egos to do so. Our best defense is to live our values. I am committed to doing this to the best of my ability every day. I’m calling on my fellow service members and veterans to join me and welcome others to come along as well. Let’s risk a bruised ego to help save our country.
A Boomer who joined the Army during the Cold War and continues to serve. Kevin spent 30-plus years working in K-12 education as a teacher, administrator, and consultant. His book, Know Power, Know Responsibility, provides the imperatives for a complete redesign of schools and the way to get there.