Social Distortion: Athletes, Especially in College, Need to Get Off Social Media


By Derek Franks

It’s annoying enough when professional athletes act like a bunch of preteen girls over Twitter when they get upset about something or someone. But when college students are doing it, sports stars or not, it just doesn’t look good.

Texas A&M quarterback and defending Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel took to the social media site to express his misfortune and annoyance of fame by tweeting earlier this week: “Bulls*** like tonight is a reason why I can’t wait to leave college station…whenever it may be.”

He then followed up with: “Don’t ever forget that I love A&M with all of my heart, but please please walk a day in my shoes” before both posts were deleted.

The posts’ removal did not save him from damage. They were “retweeted” tens of thousands of times, understandable for a guy who has more than 361,000 followers.

With so many connected these days, the world is monitoring their every online move. It’s simple enough for the coaches and administrators to tell them “Watch what you say.” But things are easier said than done. There are no filters on these sites. With regards to Twitter, if you can say it in 140 characters or less, you’re going to say it. And thousands upon thousands are going to see it, even if it’s only on there for a brief moment.

So why are they on Twitter to begin with? A 2010 study of athletes’ use of social networks shows that “Although Twitter is offering fans unprecedented access to athletes, its potential as a marketing tool is not being realized by athletes. Most athletes are not tweeting about their products, providing links to their web sites or referencing brands that they use” (Pegoraro 2010).

So then, they aren’t using it to advance their career. It’s for personal reasons. Basically a big microphone for them to cry into when they’re having a bad day.

Manziel’s candid remarks are understandable. It must be a nightmare for someone of his stature to walk even a minute in College Station, much less a day. But this issue is more than just athletes expressing their displeasure, whether or not it be justified. This is about the image of a football program and college athletics altogether. Think about it. What kind of impression does it leave on us to see a collegiate player saying that he can’t wait to get out of the town that worships the ground he walks on. What does it say about these players’ egos and their personal agenda?

It says a lot.

Something tells me that Johnny Football has bigger things on his mind than his career at Texas A&M. Hmm, maybe it was how he said “I can’t wait to leave” and that it is reinforced with a healthy dose of “I don’t care” by adding “whenever it may be.” It’s as if he’s just counting down the days to when he gets to see dollar signs rather than just Twitter followers.

Something tells me that most college athletes think the same way. But that is a different story.

Like I said, I’m sure walking around College Station is probably a nightmare for Manziel. It’s a safe bet that it gets even worse when it’s past midnight and alcohol is in the equation. I’m not saying that he doesn’t have every right to feel the brunt of being a celebrity in a college town. But these are exactly the types of situations that should warrant the lack of online presence, one that Manziel uses so frequently. After all, he himself has Tweeted some 3,500 times in just half a year he’s been online. When you’re a big name but you’re still a college student, the wrong words could have a big impact. While plenty of people his age have Twitter and other channels of social networking, it requires a whole new level of responsibility and maturity to maintain such highly interactive means of communication when you’re a well-known figure in society. As he has proven, he doesn’t have a handle on it. Thus, I don’t think he, or any college athlete, should be allowed to have access to such public platforms.

Honestly, though, do these athletes really need to be on Twitter? Is it necessary in marketing themselves? No. Is it conducive to his NFL prospects? I’d say his Heisman trophy has helped in that regard. Does it allow him to “connect” with fans? Probably not. Does he really sift through thousands of messages he gets from followers each day? Not a chance. Does he really care what other people on Twitter think? Don’t bet on it. In fact, his presence there serves him no purpose whatsoever.

It’s true. These social media sites do more harm than good. I can’t remember the last time an athlete was getting news coverage for something good and positive that he or she posted. No instance comes to mind where a big ruckus was made about something that was good for a collegiate program. Usually, someone says something controversial and paints that athletic program in a negative light, leading to the coaches and the administrators and schools to try and do damage control and clean up the mess. These athletes have proven time and time again that the only purpose it serves to have social media is to create bad PR for the schools that have graciously given them the opportunity to play which is the only reason that they’ve made it to the point they have in their careers.

Do I feel bad for Johnny Football? Eh, I guess, as much as it pains me to say it. Do I understand that he faces hardships? Absolutely. But do I think he needs to voice the frustrations with town and school that has been so good to him? Not at all. It only makes everyone look bad and peeve off people like me who don’t want to hear all of that crap in sports media.

These players represent the schools they play for, and the programs they are a part of. The very image of the school and team is in the hands of these athletes, a very fragile and potentially detrimental situation indeed. It’s like putting and a bunch of grenades in the hands of a baby. It’s too touchy and too self-compromising to keep them online.

These college athletes need to be cut off from these social media sites before something really bad gets said and it all blows up in their team’s face.

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