We live in the remarkable age of social media.  Sites like Twitter and Facebook give us unprecedented access to athletes and their thoughts instantaneously.   This is both a blessing and a curse, in some ways.    
Last week, WVU starting quarterback Clint Trickett came under fire for a tweet he sent out in which he complained about watching football with a woman, and then finished it off with a hashtag telling women to “stick to cooking.”  The sports news website Deadspin, a watchdog for these sorts of things, seized on the tweet right away, posting the tweet and bringing a lot more attention to Trickett’s misdeed.  If Trickett didn’t know before how one bad public moment can identify him to the public, he surely knows now.  Trickett tried to immediately take back what he said, but it was too late.  Granted, once the season begins, this will eventually be behind him, but one positive is that it can show younger athletes that you need to be careful in this current climate.  

There are two issues here.  First, the climate that surrounds the media today is sort of treacherous.  With the access that pretty much everyone has to information, coupled with the ability to broadcast your thoughts and reactions to the world is how these sorts of things happen.  Secondly, what Clint Trickett said is indicative of the pervasive culture of sports, which is sad in this day and age. Trickett immediately apologized, but the damage had been done.  This is the second issue. The immediate backlash to what we say is usually swift, loud, and outraged, and in our zeal to out-outrage one another, the message gets lost.  We want apologies and contriteness, but that’s where it ends.  It seems that sometimes, people aren’t all that interested in redemption, at least not initially.  It may be time to ask ourselves, “what’s more important: bringing ‘justice’ to those who use the platform to spew hate and ignorance, or to help them to be more careful?”

So, what is to be gained from all of this?  For today’s athletes–from the pros on down to the guys and girls I cover–it’s important to realize that what you say has consequences.  Moreover, the climate around social media can be very dangerous.  People love to pounce on those in the public eye, like piranhas in a feeding frenzy.  This is good in some ways, especially in situations where there has been an injustice.  But there are very few instances where our indignation is righteous.  More often than not, people will be waiting to pounce when anyone makes a misstep.  It’s difficult when you’re dealing with teenage kids. The typical high school, even college athlete   But here’s the thing: they’re smart.  They know that once they tweet something everyone can dissect it.  They know that once they put up an Instagram photo, everyone can see it.  That just comes with the territory of having notoriety.  So, surely they must know that one wrong move can bring the whole thing down.  

If I could give them one piece of advice over everything else, it would be to just think about it before sending out a tweet or a photo.  The ability to communicate with the masses in mere seconds is quite the gift.  It can give everyone a look into what your life is like.  I suppose it all comes down to choice.  No one is making you post your inner thoughts to the world.  But still, the capability is there.  Sometimes, that’s all it takes, and that’s usually when things go awry.  This is the water we all swim in now.  In today’s climate, we can see everything.  Just make sure that it’s what you want us to see.