A new study has found that college student-athletes use Twitter to stay in contact with family and friends, but it also allows fans to be overly negative toward the players.
“The Positives and Negatives of Twitter: Exploring How Student Athletes Use Twitter and Respond to Critical Tweets” by Clemson Assistant Communication Studies Professor Jimmy Sanderson and Baylor Assistant Communication Professor Blair Browning, is based on interviews with 20 NCAA athletes.
The co-authors also reported that players often get post-game comments that are “critical or even abusive…both performance-wise and personally.” Browning calls such tweets “modern…hate mail.”
The MSR recently asked four University of Minnesota student athletes about their Twitter use:
Junior Maverick Ahanmisi says he occasionally uses it to post pictures “or maybe when I have something that’s really on my mind, then I will use it. I really don’t use it that much.”
“I just got a Twitter account a few months ago, and I’m on it very rarely,” admits senior Leah Cotton.
“I use it, but not that often,” adds senior Andre Ingram.
“When you are a high-profile athlete, and you have a Twitter [account], you have to be more responsible than the people who are responding to you.”
Said junior Kionna Kellogg, “I’ve used Twitter for a little while. I…use it to tweet about productive things or little tidbits back and forth.”
When asked about fans and others using Twitter negatively, Ahanmisi recalls once receiving a couple of negative tweets.
“I don’t feel that’s right,” says Ingram.
Although she hasn’t read any negative tweets about her, Cotton adds that it “comes with the territory. You are going to have people who will encourage you and critique you. I’ve seen [negative postings] on other websites, but not on Twitter.”
Kellogg says social media too often give people a license to say anything.
Browning and Sanderson’s study also notes that many schools have social media use rules. University of Kentucky, Louisville and several other schools both regularly monitor their players on social media. They subscribe to a monitoring service that is installed on the student-athlete’s social media accounts and keeps track of posts, tweets and comments. He or she gets an email from their coach if they use a “flagged” word or words.
The University of Michigan’s social media policy states that discipline for violating it can include a written reprimand, suspension from competition and team activities, or dismissal from the team.
A Minnesota spokesperson told the MSR last week that there is no formal social media use policy for their school athletes, but each coach and the athletic communications office talk to players about it.
“As a coach, you hope it is not distracting our guys,” notes U of M Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Saul Smith, “staying up day and night looking at Twitter, and having people following them that are dangerous. There are a lot of people who don’t mean good, and you’re hoping that [the student-athletes] are making the right choices. As much as we are around [the players], we are not around them the whole time.
“I personally don’t have a Twitter account,” says Smith.
Ahanmisi admits that social media can be distracting. “When I don’t want to do my homework, the first thing pops in my mind is [going on] Twitter, and it slows me down,” he says.
“I think when you are a high-profile athlete, and you have a Twitter [account], you have to be more responsible than the people who are responding to you. If it’s getting to you, then delete it,” suggests Kellogg.
According to Fieldhouse Media, at least one third of all college students use Twitter — 20 percent use it every day, and nearly 90 percent use their phones to access social media sites. Kellogg says she uses social media to encourage people to come to Gopher women’s basketball games.
Finally, Sanderson says schools “should enhance” social media training for their players, especially in how to “properly [handle] critical tweets.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.