SPORTS

The social network

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

It's a new age for communication. With the creation of social media, everything has changed.

You can literally get caught up on events the second they happen. People have a platform where their voices can be heard any time they have something to say.

However, as with most things, social media carries plenty of baggage along with it--especially when you're a college or professional athlete. It's because of this, athletes like Robert Griffin III have decided to avoid it at all costs.

Griffin had been an active participant on social media but last week, he announced that he had, had enough. He decided it was high time he took a sabbatical.

On his decision to go cold turkey on social media, Griffin said, "It just felt like, for me, anything I was saying, whether it was positive or negative, whether it was a positive retweet or anything, was getting twisted and turned against me and against this team.

"I feel I can be free up here and talk to you guys, but sometimes things get twisted and turned, and it creates a distraction for the team. I didn't want that to happen."

This is exactly why all athletes should take the lead of Griffin. Social media just isn't worth the headache.

Most people go the route of social media to keep up with friends, some partake in it for networking purposes, companies use it as free advertising and some people form an obsession with it because they just don't have a whole heck of a lot going on in their lives.

Athletes don't really fit into any of those categories listed above. Sure, they'd like to be assessable to their fans, but the garbage and pitfalls social media presents to someone in their positions can often dwarf the rewards of fan interaction.

You have to drudge through some serious sewage when you're a famous athlete.

If you have a subpar performance, you can receive thousands upon thousands of tweets from angry fans bashing you and calling you every vile name under the sun. Many athletes will get peppered with death threats.

Look no further than embattled LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings. His Twitter account has been a house of horrors this season as detractors have taken to their keyboards to throw nasty barbs and brutal death threats his way.

And even when you're flourishing, you still have to deal with the mass negativity. There are the "haters" or the "Internet trolls" that only have one purpose in life: tear down someone else to try to make themselves feel good.

These are the people that follow celebrities they dislike on Twitter just to repeatedly tweet hateful messages toward them.

If it wasn't enough having to deal with the irrational and classless riffraff, social media can often cause an athlete to become his own worst enemy.

As we have found out in this modern ultra-sensitive, PC-rich era, some people literally sit around looking for things to incite their outrage. You give them an inch, and they'll take a mile.

With this always lingering close by, Twitter often turns out to be a trap. You're only allowed 140 character (roughly two sentences depending on their length) per tweet.

That content restriction often hampers your ability to thoroughly articulate your statement. It often results in having to leave out important points or explanations.

Because of this, oftentimes, a simple statement can be misinterpreted, manipulated or twisted. And when that happens, it equals a PR nightmare for the athlete.

That's when the outrage ensues, when their tweets are being painstakingly dissected by multiple talking heads on TV, when drama erupts and when people are demanding apologies.

That's the drawback to social media. It's a double-edged sword. You get to have your comments out for everyone to see. Unfortunately, you get to have your comments out for everyone to see.

With social media, everything someone says is amplified. It's seen by so many more people and when outrage ensues, it spreads like wildfire.

You can literally put up a tweet and just an hour later, you can have half the nation wanting your head on the chopping block.

For all its perks, social media can overcook stories, make incidents and statements much bigger than they really are and it can create polarizing topics that often cause participants to attack each other in ugly and hate-filled exchanges.

It can create misinformation as people see tweets that are short on facts but instead of looking into it, they blindly accept it as truths.

Bottom line, if you're famous and have eyes constantly on everything you do, social media just isn't worth its trouble.

As an athlete, you already have enough things to worry about. You already have enough distractions. Don't create another one that's totally unnecessary.