Should Student Athletes Make Their Twitter Account Private?

November 18, 2011 Kevin DeShazo Social Media Education Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

There has been an ongoing debate regarding protected (or private) tweets versus public tweets, and where the accounts of student-athletes should land. Note: This conversation is completely different on Facebook, where you have more control over your privacy settings, and where your personal info can be visible to those you connect with.

Public accounts are just that, public.  Every tweet can be read and shared (or Retweeted). If your account is set to “Public”, anybody can follow you on Twitter. Anybody with internet access can read your tweets, even if they don’t have a Twitter account.

Private accounts, meanwhile, are private. Sort of.  If you choose to “protect” your tweets, you have control over who follows you. A person has to request your permission to follow you, and you get an email where you make the decision.  There are some restrictions on people sharing, or retweeting, your posts.  If your account is protected, Twitter tells you that your tweets will not be public. Meaning only the people you have accepted as followers can see your tweets, and they cannot share (Retweet) your tweets.

So what’s the answer for student-athletes? Should their accounts be public or private?  Should they have two accounts, one public and one private?

The idea of having 2 accounts is an interesting one.  Number one, what 19 year old wants to keep up with multiple accounts? The odds of them posting something on the wrong account are very high. Number two, telling them to have two accounts is acknowledging that student-athletes can in fact use Twitter well.  If they can use a public account well, why do they need a private account? If they have thoughts that don’t need to be shared with the public, they don’t need to tweet them at all. That’s where education comes in.

Some argue that student-athletes should have a private account for friends/family, and a public account for the world. If they want communicate specifically with family/close friends, text them. Or set your Facebook account to private and use it only for family and close friends. Again, a 19 year old isn’t going to want to maintain multiple Twitter accounts.

Which brings us back to public vs private on Twitter. I’m all for public.  In general, people question those with protected accounts. “What are they hiding? What do they have to say that the world shouldn’t be able to see?”  The obvious exception is if the person is a minor.

I have two problems with private accounts. The first is that Twitter, at it’s core, is a sharing network. Share your thoughts, opinions, links to interesting articles/blogs/websites. If you want to share something privately, e-mail or text it.

Telling student-athletes to make their account private gives them permission to use Twitter poorly. All they hear is, “Go ahead and say whatever you want online. But make your account private and review every potential ‘follower’ carefully so that nobody of influence actually sees your tweets.”

And what if they are using it well? Nobody will know about it. With a private account and limited followers, they might as well not be on Twitter.

It’s called a social network for a reason. Let’s encourage them to be social.

My second issue with private accounts is that they are not truly private. It’s a false sense of security. Take thesituation that Elon RB Jamal Shuman got himself into. With his account set to “private”, he decided to go on a Twitter rant about his coach.  Somebody from the school newspaper told him to be careful, to which he responded, “I know everybody who follows me. And nobody from the athletic department follows me.”  What he didn’t pay attention to, apparently, was that sports writers were following him. And while you can’t just hit “Retweet” on the tweets of a private account, you can copy and paste.  Sports writers did just that. And Shuman’s “private” account suddenly became very, very public.

The same thing happened with Yuri Wright, a high school student-athlete out of New Jersey. Tweets from his “private” account cost him a scholarship to play football at Michigan.

So if private isn’t really private, why not allow your student-athletes to leave their accounts public? At the end of the day, the decision should be made by the student-athlete. Just make sure they are educated on just how “public” Twitter really is, and how to use it in a positive, appropriate way.

Fieldhouse Media is a firm dedicated to educating student-athletes and coaches on how to use social media in a positive, appropriate way. To find out more about us or to join the growing list of schools utilizing our services for their athletic department, contact us today.

Could not resolve host: urls.api.twitter.com