As students we’re tired of dealing with the pitfalls of social media. Privacy polices, MySpace stalkers and ‘accidents’ like the Anthony Weiner incident have almost trumped the progress that social media has provided.
Nowhere have the perils of oversharing social media been more obvious than in the world of athletics. Auburn Tigers defensive back Jordan Spriggs found himself in hot water after tweeting “Man, who is good at writing papers??????? I pay,” and has since had his Twitter account deleted. Perhaps even more embarrassingly, members of the Elon University baseball team were disciplined after photos of players drinking and wearing women’s underwear and blindfolds at a team party were posted on Facebook.
Also, the National Football League recently announced that its players will be tweeting during the Pro Bowl, the league’s all-star game, as it goes on. The league will provide computers for its players on the sideline.
A hot debate in the world of collegiate sports now is where to draw the line on monitoring how student-athletes use social media. After a December statement from the NCAA that the University of North Carolina “failed to adequately and consistently monitor the social media activity of its athletes,” colleges are changing their social media policies to have a stronger hand on controlling what their students post.
With that goal in mind, this week Villanova University began to require all student-athletes, not just the basketball team, to register their Facebook and Twitter accounts with the third-party monitoring site VarsityMonitor. The company will see and screen athletes’ tweets, pictures and updates to make sure they don’t embarrass themselves or their school.
This is the wrong way to address this problem, and we hope that Drexel will not follow in the same path as Villanova. Recognizing that the reputation of the school can often, fairly or not, rest on the shoulders of a few high-profile athletic stars, we understand that managing what these students say can seem like an attractive proposition to administrators.
But let’s give our athletes a little credit. We already trust them on many other levels. Each week we ask them to keep their cool on the courts and fields while being watched by spectators and the press. By all means, require our athletes to take a class in social media skills and have advisers impart on the athletes the importance of thinking before they tweet.
But getting a third party to police them is overkill and, quite frankly, sneaky. In our minds it sends a direct message to the athletes: We trust you enough to represent this school on the court but not when you’re on your own. Disrespecting players enough to spy on their personal lives is a direction that we hope Drexel never approaches now that Villanova, just down the road, has done so.