By David Brackman
When I was in high school, we communicated with each other over two soup cans connected by a string (I’m kidding).
But when I was in high school in the 1970s (yeah, I’m old) the only phones we had were hanging on the wall (connected to a cord!) and nobody owned a computer either, so any message sent to a friend (or enemy) was in writing. My calculator, which only had four functions and cost $99, was bigger and heavier than my current, modern cell phone.
Today everybody owns a cell phone, which is a misnomer, because in addition to being a phone, these devices are actually a powerful computer inside everyone’s pocket. The world is literally at your fingertips. But along with great power comes great responsibility – especially for young people.
Just because you have access to dozens of platforms that allow you to document every aspect of your life doesn’t mean that you should. Just because you can send a scathing review of an event or person does not mean it’s a good idea to do so. Just because you find some meaning in the words of a song with offensive lyrics doesn’t mean you should share your feelings with the world.
If you are a high school athlete who hopes to play in college, it’s a smart idea to keep your social media accounts clean and non-controversial.
Just today, I read a story that the general manager of the New York Mets, hired only one month ago to what was surely his dream job after starting his career in pro sports as an intern 17 years ago, had been abruptly fired because he had sent inappropriate texts to a reporter he knew through his job when he worked for another team more than four years ago.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of other examples of well-known, smart people, many of them athletes, who torpedoed their careers or personal lives by sending or posting an ill-advised text, tweet, or message or photo on social media.
And if their careers did manage to survive, it was only after public ridicule, embarrassment and often financial repercussions. (Yesterday – although it happened in person and not on social media -- there was a story about a pro golfer who lost a lucrative sponsorship because he muttered a homophobic slur to himself that was picked up by the camera audio during a recent tournament.
Don’t be that guy (or girl)! These horror stories did not need to occur.
Be your own filter
“The Internet is forever,” someone once said, meaning that even a “youthful indiscretion” can resurface later to bite you in an uncomfortable spot. Because your electronic footprints can linger indefinitely, it’s best to think about how and where you tread online.
Another useful bromide, courtesy of my mother: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” In other words, why put your name on anything nasty or divisive if you don’t have to? What good can come out of it except some short-term “guess I told them” satisfaction? (To be sure, hiding behind a screen name may offer some level of anonymity, but does NOT make it right.)
These ideas should resonate with high school athletes trying to make an impression on college coaches. Think of it this way: If you were a college coach and comparing recruits of similar talents, would you go with the one who has a checkered social media history or the one with no controversial posts, all other things being equal?
Whether you like him or not, it is undeniable that the outgoing U.S. president was banned from his preferred social media platform for disruptive online behavior. If the president can be banned, a college can easily rebuff you based on offensive social media activity.
You can do better. Be your own filter. Don’t be spontaneous or controversial. Think before you click send.
Serious high school athletes who want to play college sports have carefully crafted their sports careers. Don’t let a moment of social media ignorance derail those carefully crafted college dreams.