Criticism & Crazy

It’s a very slow trend, but a few athletic departments have started promoting personal Twitter accounts of student-athletes on their various communication platforms. At first, I loved the idea. I’m a firm believer student-athletes should be allowed to use social media. It’s about education, not elimination.  So, why not give fans an inside look into what it’s like to be a student-athlete? Why not elevate the student-athletes who engage responsibly on social media?

But lately, I’ve had concerns. It’s not about student-athletes saying the wrong thing on social media (though of course, that is a worry)… I’m concerned about promoting student-athlete accounts for two things they can’t control: criticism & crazy.

1. Criticism
Criticism is a part of life, and sooner or later, we all have to learn how to deal with it. The criticism student-athletes face on social media though is not the normal, constructive criticism received from a coach, job review, etc. Irrational fans get on social media after a loss and start name-calling, blaming, etc. Criticism on social media is rarely constructive.

If a student-athlete chooses to be on Twitter or any other social media platform, they have to face the reality… criticism will come. No doubt, people find student-athlete Twitter handles whether or not the school promotes them. 

The issue: Do schools want to be the avenue for people to find student-athlete accounts, especially if that person only tweets negativity?. 

2. Crazed Fans, Stalkers, etc.
Social media gives fans a peek inside student-athletes lives like they’ve never had before; it also gives fans direct access to communicate with student-athletes.

Unfortunately, this direct access and peek inside personal lives can lead to not-so-good situations- stalkers, people who take advantage, etc. Again, this could happen whether or not the school promotes the student-athlete Twitter accounts.  

The issue: If an athletic department promotes personal Twitter accounts of student-athletes, and one of those student-athletes gets a stalker via social media, is the school accountable?  After all, the stalker saw the Twitter handle on the athletic department website.

It’s something to think about.

Bottom Line
Protecting student-athletes should be priority, so for me, it all comes down to accountability with the athletic departments. If a program promotes personal social media accounts, and something goes array (like a stalker), are the schools accountable?  I understand this isn’t something everyone will deal with, but there is always that chance. Schools need to have a plan in place, just in case…

What do you think? Is promoting the personal social media accounts of student-athletes a do or a don’t?

2 thoughts on “Criticism & Crazy

  1. I’m a big proponent of social media education for athletes because I believe that positive promotion of athletes on Twitter creates advocacy for both the athletic department and the individual SA. If it’s handled the way University of Washington does, then it’s a plus. Training, certifying, and promoting certain student-athletes brings fans in and builds an advocate shield against a negative event (not my assumption, but research-backed). The kids at UW are all voluntary and UW provides the training and the platform. These students are building their own brands and helping the school at the same time. It’s a win-win.

    If all we ever do is throw up our hands about the bad tweeters, and the mistakes they make, then we will end up with a system that bans and regulates, or is just a big free-for-all. As long as media are enamored with these kids, we have to provide them with the tools and education to be a success. You can’t stop all the stupid tweets–that’s not the point. You can empower these “students” for success. I think stalkers are going to stalk anyway. Part of good education is training on privacy and security as well.


    • Hi Chris,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m a huge fan of what Washington is doing in the social space. If schools want to promote their student-athletes, then I believe they need to adopt their model. I think there is a difference between what UW is doing and a school promoting the personal accounts of student-athletes. UW is helping the student-athletes build a professional brand and I would not necessarily consider those accounts “personal” (those accounts are more an extension of UW to help humanize the brand). Perhaps I should have elaborated on the difference between the two, because you bring up a great point.

      I am by no way saying that we should not elevate student-athletes who engage responsibly on social media, I just meant this to be food for thought. I also agree with you about throwing up our hands because of the bad tweeters. I’m a firm believer it’s
      about education, not elimination. Thanks again, Chris! Your brought up some wonderful points.


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