With the rise of social media, a public figure’s personal critics are never more than 140 characters away.
Student-athletes are among those who feel the sting of ill-advised or critical social posts, which has raised the question as to whether universities should take steps to regulate the sites.
At universities that place an emphasis on their athletics program, it may not come as much of a surprise that personal social media attacks are a frequent occurrence for a number of prominent student-athletes.
University of Wisconsin fullback Derek Watt said he sees the critique as an inevitable reality but that he believes athletes can choose to receive it in a variety of ways.
“People are behind their computers so they can say what they want,” Watt said. “Sometimes I use it as motivation. You just have to acknowledge it and let it go.”
UW quarterback Joel Stave is no stranger to criticism from fans and said he prefers to take the “don’t read it” approach by staying away from Twitter completely, he said.
While Stave was aware that such criticisms were out there, he said he prefers not to seek the negativity out and sad he feels unaffected by this version of cyberbullying.
“All that really matters to me is what my teammates think, what my coaches think and what my family thinks,” Stave said.
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo spoke about the effect social media can have on student-athletes on the ESPN radio show “Mike & Mike.”
Izzo said there was no way to get away from social media.
“When you’re in the gym, two hours, they’re yelling at you. You get away, go back to your dorm and life becomes normal. Not anymore,” Izzo said. “Those same people at that arena are now yelling at you on Twitter. You can say, ‘Don’t read it,’ but I don’t think it’s the way our kids are brought up.”
Izzo also brought up that while he could not control what the athletes read, he could control what they tweet.
Universities around the country are adopting policies for monitoring student-athletes’ social media use, according to an article in the Harvard Crimson. According to the article, universities have signed up for UDiligence, an outside program that monitors student-athlete activity on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
“Just like we like to monitor their whereabouts, monitor their academics, we need to monitor their Twitter accounts as well,” Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker told The Crimson.
Suzy Merchant, the women’s basketball coach at Michigan State University, said to the State News that she has not been strict in punishing players for violating the social media policy in the past but plans to crack down on players in the future.
Watt said the 140 characters allotted by Twitter have a “potential for great power.”
“At the end of the day, we’re the ones out there doing something and they’re talking about it,” Watt said.