Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Prep athletes must be aware of social media dangers

  There is no doubt social media has changed the game when it comes to journalism – particularly for myself in sports – and how information is distributed to the masses.
  For example, just a few years ago the only way folks knew how a Hobbs boys basketball game went was listening to it on the radio live or picking up the paper the next day.
  Now through Twitter (and following myself or someone who may be at the game), updates are provided and sent to your phone almost as it happens (though, not with the same detail that include the reaction of coaches and players a story in the paper will give you – keep buying the newspaper people!). 
  Social media also makes it easier for all of us to connect. People will ask me questions about a game, team or situation through Twitter and (usually) get a prompt answer because it’s sitting there on my phone. No waiting for me to get back to the office and check my messages or work email.
  However, for every positive use and convenience social media gives us, there are about twice as many negatives that can happen if one isn’t responsible and careful.
  Unfortunately, many of these mistakes are often made by those still in high school – including athletes.
  When used responsibly, social media is a great tool for athletes to keep those who either know or enjoy watching them play connected and informed while also building a great brand.
  However, if used incorrectly, social media can be a disaster for athletes (or anybody, for that matter). 
  And trust me, I’ve seen some local area athletes Twitter pages and feeds and it’s shocking what they are willing to put out there for the masses. Lets just say mom and dad probably wouldn’t approve.
  It’s all in the open – a couple clicks away for the entire world to see.
  It’s so easy to just push tweet or send because there is no feeling of immediate accountability for one’s actions.
  However, the accountability is there and reckless use of social media can be detrimental to one’s future. It’s a window into someone’s character that anybody can click on, and fair or not, they will judge that person on what they see.
  For instance, lets say an athlete has a chance to move on and play in college. I can tell you I know coaches look at recruits’ Twitter and Facebook pages. If they are going to take a chance and use a scholarship (or even part of one) to bring an athlete in, they are going to check a recruit’s social media pages because his or her’s actions reflect on the coach and their future employment with their school.
  If an athlete is neck and neck with another potential recruit and that particular athlete  has a Twitter timeline full of ill-advised photos and posts referring to things one shouldn’t be doing (or at least should be posting online), he or she will lose out. Coaches don’t want a headache. In most cases, there are dozens of athletes just as talented they can choose from. Why take a chance with someone who appears to have a lack of good judgment?
  Even if you’re a local athlete and don’t have a shot at playing in college, it still reflects poorly on the team and the town you represent if you act like a bafoon on social media.
  In Lea County, we are an area full of one high school towns. That name across the uniform represents a city and your actions reflect upon the town as a whole. Any stupidity or inappropriateness plastered across social media is going to not shine a good light on you, your family, your city or your team.
  With the evolution of technology, these are new times. Even at 32 years old, my high school experience differs so much from those today. While the convenience to access information is much easier these days, it also leads to issues with privacy.
  In other words, thanks to social media, everyone can be in your business or have an opinion about your business. I would’ve hated that in high school and I don’t look forward to dealing with it as my daughter gets older.
  But as parents, and even though we didn’t grow up with this technology, we need to be aware of it and regulate it.
  I’m all for allowing a teenager freedom and expression, but make sure they aren’t getting out of hand when it comes to social media. Ensure they either have their settings on private (I’m shocked more people don’t have it set up that way) so the whole world can’t see what they do, or if they do have it open to the public, make sure they’re very aware of the consequences of their actions when every post can be seen.
  Social media is a fantastic tool. I’ve enjoyed it when it comes to my work and keeping up with friends, family and associates.
  However, know the dangers.
  As former NFL player and coach Herm Edwards famously said at an NFL rookie symposium a few years ago, think about what you are about to post before you press tweet or send because you can’t take it back.
  And everybody is going to see it – the good and the bad.

  (Editor's note: This column appeared in Sunday's edition of the Hobbs News-Sun. To get content like this and more on athletic teams in Lea County, get a hard copy or online subscription to the News-Sun by calling 575-393-2123.)