In recent days my social media feed has been full of people changing their names. It's a little bit like getting a hundred new friends all at the same time, except I can't remember who anyone is and don't remember meeting any of them. Gone is the ability to differentiate between the 15 "Kate" friends I have in my feed, since none of them now carry last names.
They've also removed most identifying photos from their profile, which basically makes it impossible to figure out who anyone is without deep diving into their page.
And even though it's driving me crazy, that ambiguity is completely the point.
Most of the name changes have been done in response to stories like this one. According to both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), military members should renew their caution on social media.
“The FBI and DHS recommend that current and former members of the military review their online social media accounts for any information that might serve to attract the attention of ISIL [ISIS] and its supporters,” a bulletin said and that troops should “routinely exercise operational security in their interactions online."
But Pentagon officials, according to the story, have said this is nothing new -- that we have known for a long time that personal security (PERSEC) and Operational Security (OPSEC) are important.
When I look at this issue, I have to shrug my shoulders for myself. I'm a public person thanks to my job, something I had long before I became a military family member or started writing about the military. It's too late for a 21st-Century internet bomb shelter for me.
In October when the Army issued their own bulletin about this, we asked our readers how they find a little sense and sensibility in this whole online-threat mess. Of all the responses we got to that question, my favorite was this from a reader who identified herself as "Household 6:"
When my husband is deployed, do I stop going on hikes? No, I take my German Shepard and a cell phone, my friends know my routes and schedules, and I change them so I am not at the same place every day.In my opinion, name changing on Facebook is one panic bridge too far. But then again, there's no reason I should be telling someone else the best way to protect themselves or their family. If they think removing their last name is the way to go, then why not?
Same common sense applies. We can still do the things we enjoy and still stay in touch with people we love and be proud of our military affiliations, but we should be aware, and live in reality.
I've also seen some good measures come out of the warnings. People who unwittingly have their entire profiles set to public are learning how to change their settings and lock down their information. Those are good things.
What about you? Are you taking any steps in response to this latest threat news? Or are you continuing as usual? Do you think name changing is taking it farther than it needs to go? Tell us in the comments.