What once was a trickle is now a trend. Coaches around the country are requiring their players to no longer use the Twitter social networking service. Gregg Doyel at CBS Sportsline writes:
Twitter is a wonderful thing, no matter what some idiot (OK, it was me) said about it on CNN a few years ago. But Twitter isn't for everybody. In the wrong hands, Twitter is a dangerous thing.
And a college athlete's hands are awful.
Not all college athletes, OK? Maybe not even most of them. But all it takes is a few players unequipped for the freedom that Twitter provides -- instant communication, without a filter, to anyone in the world -- to make a mess of their own reputation, or a team's chemistry, or worse.
This is nothing unusual to the Big Blue Nation, of course. John Calipari famously banned Josh Harrellson after an intemperate tweet critical of the coach, and set off a chain of events that resulted in Harrellson becoming a critical part of the 2010-11 Wildcats and improving so much he was drafted in the second round of the NBA draft.
Oops -- did Doyel say it was bad? That episode turned out pretty good, as I recall. Calipari and Harrellson were able to make some pretty sweet lemonade out of Harrellson's sour tweet, but Rick Stansbury had exactly the opposite thing happen down at Mississippi St. when Ravern Johnson blasted out an ill-advised comment that got him banned from Twitter, suspended, and sent an already reeling team chemistry straight down the proverbial drain.
The balance sheet of outcomes when it comes to Twitter faux pas is far more negative than positive.
We have seen how social networking services like Twitter and Facebook, but particularly Twitter, can get the careless person, even those who are presumably intelligent and sophisticated (see Weiner, Anthony) in a ton of trouble, from which extraction can be very difficult and even impossible. Reputations can be destroyed, as well as future employment prospects. The famous adage, "Loose lips sink ships," is less a metaphor when it comes to social networking and more like a literal reality. Doyel gives us an example:
That's a mostly harmless example, so I'll give you one that isn't harmless. I don't even have to leave the SEC for it. At Florida, safety Will Hill took to Twitter last year to unleash a barrage of garbage about sex, drugs and the awful food forced on those poor Florida Gators. I won't link to it -- it's that bad -- but Hill's tweets provided a window into his immature soul. And rest assured they were noticed by several NFL teams. Wouldn't surprise me if his tweets cost him a spot on some draft boards.
Maybe this sort of naked soul-bearing is good for future employers, who will learn that prospective employees have problems with temperament or maturity -- in the most public and embarrassing possible way -- well in advance of the need for their services.
But for the young men and women involved, this sort of thing is very destructive to their future prospects, and as we all know by now, what is written on the Internet is permanently engraved in history and cannot be undone, ever. Giving young people the opportunity to badly damage their lives before they even begin is an obvious concern.
Should every coach ban Twitter? Who knows, but one thing is for sure -- it has become a headache for a lot of programs. To paraphrase Cathy Bates in The Waterboy, "Is Twitter the Devil?"