Twitter has many uses. Some people use the social media tool to get the latest headlines and quick bits of the daily news. Others use it to see where their friends are (I’m sorry foursquare, I cannot get on board with you). And us journalism students use it to make personal connections with peers and professionals. Professional athletes, however, are taking over the medium and using it to air whatever sort of dirty laundry they may have. The question is, how does this affect the way they are viewed in the public eye?
This year, the disaster began with LeBron James’ infamous karma tweet. From there, the ball began rolling downhill. There was the tweet from Stevie Johnson of the Buffalo Bills blaming God for a dropped pass, the halftime tweet from Charlie Villanueva (really, you couldn’t wait?), and of course Andray Blatche’s tweet challenging a fan to a fight. Athletes also have a tendency to use Twitter as their personal notebook, and they are broadcasting every random thought that comes into their heads (@nate_robinson I am talking to you).
It can be argued that Twitter has allowed athletes to create a more personal connection with their fans. People like knowing that they can tweet their thoughts at, and possible be responded to by, the athletes themselves rather than talking through a middleman. This is true to a point, and the positive here is that through Twitter, professional athletes have become real human beings to fans. They are no longer on this pedestal—they are interacting in our arena. This is a positive. However, the negative here is that many professional athletes like the ones previously mentioned, are showing sides of themselves that lead to a pile of work for their publicists. So where is the line, and when is it crossed.
A few Twitterverse rules for our famous friends to follow: (their publicists will most likely agree)
1. Sound vs. noise ratio. What are you tweeting and why do we need to know? For example, I do not need to know what you ate for breakfast, whether you are a professional athlete or not. Please do not fill up our newsfeeds with rants about SportsCenter, Chad Ochocinco.
2. Think before you tweet. Those crazy rants after bad games and statements that have to be deleted by your publicist may provide some interesting insights into your minds, but they really take away from your credibility as an athlete and a role model.
3. Build positive relationships with your fans. Don’t respond to the negative tweets—not everyone will like you. The more you challenge people to fight you, the less your fans are going to respect you. You make millions of dollars a year; please act with some class.
4. Keep it on the court. Or field. Or rink. You get the point. I don’t care if your opponents talk trash. Please do not openly bash them on Twitter (again, a Charlie Villanueva mistake). Instead, just play the game and embarrass them in their own arena. That is much more demoralizing.
If all of the above tips were actually practiced by athletes on Twitter, SportsCenter would have to stick to covering sports and not sports gossip, bloggers would have to dig a little deeper for posts, and our newsfeeds would be a much quieter place. Now here’s hoping a professional athlete actually reads this post and spreads the word…