What to do about College Athletes and Social Media?

08/11/2011 11:06 AM

“My twitter account was hacked!”

“Someone else logged on my facebook and wrote those things!”

We’ve all heard these frantic statements before and sometimes they may even be true. However, the effects are always the same… negative.

Around the country, coaches have differing views on the use of social media. The largest social networks, Facebook and Twitter, are looked at by many people as a way for celebrities, public figures, and especially college athletes to fail.

What about all the good that can come from them?

It keeps athletes connected, up-to-date on current events, and allows people to see a different and sometimes better side to the athlete. I personally believe there are many positive functions of social media and of course undoubtedly dangerous to a career in the wrong hands. Most programs and teams either allow it across the board or ban it completely. What about the middle ground??

For example, Coach Tubby Smith allowed everyone to use Facebook and Twitter except freshman. Apparently, he believes gaining a full year of experience is important. Is the person much more mature after their first year? Yes, typically. But I think it has to do with getting one year of experience with the media. Understanding how your words can impact others, travel wildly throughout the fan base, and reflect on you as an individual can be very pivotal in preventing “accidents” when social media is allowed.

At Kentucky, social media is allowed for the most part but not without hours of education and speeches on the possible effects of a wrong message or photo. Coach Calipari banned Josh Harrellson from twitter after he used it as a sounding board for his frustration last season. However, the result of his punishment was better physical condition and a hunger to get back in coaches good graces. This eventually led UK to the final four and Harrellson getting drafted… not necessarily a bad thing. It didn’t ruin social media for everybody because UK had education in place, and the consequences for sending the wrong message were laid out clearly.

It seems ridiculous to simply allow or disallow something as big as social media in a program without finding middle ground to work out a game plan. There’s no surprise that social media is going to get larger and more powerful with each passing year, so why not start planning now if you’re a college program? Just like going to a party or social event, athletes have to be able to make sensible decisions in order to be in good standing with the team. Instead of keeping athletes on lockdown, isn’t knowledge and understanding of consequences the best way to manage social behavior?

The potentially hazardous social networks aren’t going anywhere. Therefore, in my opinion, the programs that adapt the best now will succeed in the long run. Education, rather than separation, should be the action taken by college programs around the nation.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest KSTV Sports info delivered to your inbox.