Social media and athletics: The good and the bad

By Matthew Argillander

Advancements in technology have spawned interesting things, but social media is far and away the most intriguing. From jokes to harassment and everything in between social media has it all.

From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, there are many ways to connect with people using social platforms.

According to Pew Internet Project’s research related to social networking as of January 2014, 74 percent of online adults use social networking sites.

According to the report from Pew Internet, “Between February 2005 and August 2006, the use of social networking sites among young adult internet users ages 18-29 jumped from 9 percent to 49 percent.”

In a report from Statista they found that in 2013, 13.6 percent of the U.S. population uses Twitter, in 2014 that number jumped to 15.2 percent. By 2019 they expect that number to rise to 20.8 percent.

While people have become so much more available through social media, concerns with privacy have surfaced, especially when it comes to athletes.

Some athletes have huge followings before they even enter college, which raises questions where the line should be drawn.

When adults are found harassing young  17-year-old athletes on social media, sharing their opinions of  where they should play or threatening them when they spurn the adult’s favorite team, one has to wonder whether or not social media is a good thing.

MSU’s senior linebacker Darien Harris said that social media  comes with the territory.When a player  has  a bad game, people are going to attack them.

Harris said that players have to build a support system and that there has to be someone  positive in their corner that reminds them not to put stock into what people say about them online.

“I think there are pros and cons in all of it,” Harris said. “There are some people out there that hide behind the keyboard and voice their opinion in a negative fashion and you just have to ignore that kind of noise and take the good with the bad.”

Director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Newport Beach, California Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge said that it is up to the athlete to establish boundaries.

“Social media, like other forms of social feedback, can be either a distraction or a strength,” Rutledge said. “It is the athlete who must establish ‘use’ boundaries and recognize that excellence in sports leads to fans and fans lead to observation and commentary. Not all fans are nice about it.”

NBA star and Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Lebron James is harassed on Twitter on a daily basis by the type of fans Rutledge spoke about.

Rutledge said that is important for athletes to remember that the negative comments are a reflection of the person that said them.

“Players need to remember that cruel comments are really about the person commenting, not the player,” Rutledge said. “It takes mental toughness to perform well. It takes mental toughness to withstand social criticism. Social media amplifies the voices. Whether or not this impacts performance will be an individual matter.”

Rutledge believes allowing social media to impact where a player  goes to school is short-sighted.

“Players who allow social media to dictate their choice of schools are making a short-sighted mistake,” Rutledge said. “That decision should be made based on things like the fit with the team culture, the coaching available to help the player grow and learn (and sometimes that doesn’t mean a lot of playing time to start), and the path that supports longer terms goals, in or out of athletics.”

MSU sophomore linebacker Chris Frey believes that social media can help with recruiting, and like Frey, director of college advancement and performance at MSU Curtis Blackwell sees social media having an advantage in recruiting as well. When a person  is unable to make a phone call, it is quick and easy to send a tweet or a direct message, which Blackwell  says is a tool that makes recruiting more effective.

While there may be several negative aspects to social media, there are a variety of positive ones as well.

Harris believes that social media gives athletes the chance to humanize themselves and show the world that they are just normal people.

“Social media can be really beneficial because it give us a chance to connect to the general public,” Harris said. “It gives us a chance to show that we’re actually real people that have real lives outside of athletics.”

For Harris, social media is ultimately a positive tool and gives players a chance to acknowledge their fans.

“It also gives us a chance to thank the people that watch and supports us,” Harris said. “At the end of the day I think it is really beneficial for us.