It has certainly been interesting growing up with the internet and social media and progressing with it. I remember a time when not having regular access to the internet was normal, and I can remember much more vividly what life was like before social media and the power of the internet followed us literally everywhere we go. It has been quite a journey for me, and many others I’m sure, as we learned the advantages and disadvantages of having so much access to information and the ability to share. Just like all new things, it has taken some time for what is to be considered appropriate behavior to really take form.
I remember my very first negative run in with social media, and it was one that saw many people at my high school in hot water. On one hand, since there was never anything like Facebook before it was created our school’s administration probably struggled with how to discipline us for the transgressions, but on the other, something had to be done. The short version goes like this. During my freshman or sophomore year in high school, which would place us somewhere around 2005 or 2006, Facebook was just starting to pick up some steam. There was an upcoming sporting event between my school and a league rival, and a group of individuals from my school decided to create a group on Facebook to build excitement and hopefully increase attendance…I’m sure you have an idea where this is going. The group became popular and the trash talking was a bit over the top in some instances, so much so that a comment about another school’s headmaster found it’s way onto the desk of the headmaster of my school and someone had to be held responsible.
In this case, every member of that group was held accountable. I don’t remember exact numbers, but there had to be close to 50 members, innocent bystanders and trash-talkers alike. We were all lectured on our use of social media (something that school admins were most likely still researching themselves) because some of the comments made were completely inappropriate and downright awful. Everyone had to delete their account if the school e-mail was linked to it, write an essay, and some of the worst offenders were suspended. It was my first glimpse into the potential downfalls of social media.
Having gone through that experience at such an early stage of the social media frenzy I had a bit of an idea what not to do, and this was reinforced through my undergraduate years at Temple University. Clearly, some others are not as lucky. A trend I have noticed in the last few years is the amount of interaction between prospective student-athletes and college coaches, particularly on Twitter. In the growing landscape of college athletics coaches are continually looking for a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting, and one of the biggest additions to their arsenal of techniques has been utilizing social media. But it has turned out to be a bit of a double edged sword, with some coaches using platforms to find out the side of these kids that may not be so desirable.
Dropped another prospect this AM due to his social media presence…Actually glad I got to see the ‘real’ person before we offered him.
— Herb Hand (@CoachHand) July 30, 2014
The tweet above is former Penn State and current Auburn football coach Herb Hand explaining that he decided to not offer a particular recruit a scholarship due to his social media presence. We’ve all been in situations where we have to make an important decision about a person given the information that we know and can see. Offering someone a job, going into business together, getting married etc. are a few that come to mind, and college coaches have to do the same thing. Deciding which 17 or 18 year old kid will help your program on the field/court/pool, but also balancing the potential character issues that are present or could manifest is a pretty difficult thing to do, but all hail the mighty social media to offer assistance.
It kind of stinks to think that a kid could lose the opportunity to attend a university and play the sport they’ve dreamed of playing because of their behavior on the internet, but like many things in life it certainly serves as a teaching moment. I learned that lesson early on and thankfully I didn’t make any inappropriate comments in that Facebook group, but that example and more such as this college football case present real life evidence as to how social media can really be a danger if you aren’t careful.