22 Sep, 2017
Students and Athletes: The Social Media Dilemma
by Willie McGinest
Social media accounts are one of the best ways for students and athletes to network, market themselves and kick-start careers. Visibility on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook allow potential employers and college recruiters to follow achievements.
But social platforms can be a double-edged sword for students and athletes. Used the wrong way, or if hacked, these outlets can hurt careers and scholarship offers. The social media dilemma is real.
I speak to the kids I coach all the time about representing themselves appropriately online. From an early age, I advise them not to take risks with their future. One wrong tweet, video, poorly worded “joke,” or image can close doors.
Young kids and adults don’t quite yet understand the vast reach and permanency of everything they post. When their accounts are on private, they think they have the freedom to post whatever they wish. But word spreads fast. And screenshots are forever.
Social Media Dilemma
Today, social media has become an integral part of the college recruiting process. Many students don’t realize just how easy it is for an entrance review board to find them online. They make a fake Instagram or Facebook account and try to hide posts from colleges and employers.
But posting inappropriate images on these accounts leaves students and athletes vulnerable to someone taking a screenshot and later using it against them.
Also, there is the risk of being hacked. For instance, Laremy Tunsil, the former Mississippi tackle started the memorable NFL draft night being one of the first five picks in the draft. Then, a hacked video of him that seemed to show him smoking marijuana appeared on one of his social media accounts, and he lost millions of dollars.
To make matters worse, Tunsil also admitted to taking money from his college coaches. A picture posted on his Instagram account showed text messages from an Ole Miss athletic department official talking about the money Tunsil was given to pay for his mother’s electric bills.
Social Media Education
Although Tunsil didn’t post these himself, it is a prime example of how social media can hurt athletes. An old text message exchange, a screenshot, or a video a friend may have taken years ago can come back at the worst possible moment.
It’s important we educate students and athletes to use caution with digital media and online behavior. Parents, educators, and coaches need to reinforce a message of caution repetitively.
Whether it’s at the dinner table, an afternoon practice or in a class at school, students and athletes need to hear this message over and over again:
Proceed with caution.
Do you have a story to share about a student or athlete that learned a hard lesson about social media? Tweet me @WillieMcGinest