The Story Behind Student-Athletes’ Use Of Social Media For 2013-14

Last Updated on June 5, 2014

The verdict is in: social media is in fact chemically addictive.

In a recent study by Harvard University, researchers concluded that the brain considers “self-disclosure” to be a rewarding experience and thus, people just can’t stay away from social media.

Just ask Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel.The 2012 Heisman winner  announced his twitter sabbatical in late March of this year. Yet, “Johnny Football” — as he’s better known in the college football world — just couldn’t resist the temptation to tweet.

“When you have 100,000 followers and you’re interacting with 1,000 or 2,000 people on a consistent basis, it’s hard to step away from that,” said Kevin DeShazo, founder of Okalahoma-based Fieldhouse Media, a social media education firm designed for student-athletes and coaches.

“It’s unreasonable for us to think that a student-athlete is not going to use it,” DeShazo added. “This is how the world is communicating now. This is how players are communicating and the platforms they’re using, for better or worse.”

For some universities, like the University of Oregon, social media education is provided in-house to student-athletes. Whether it’s for budget reasons or just the athletic department’s personal preference, education in any variety is obviously essential in reducing the number of future problems.

“We do talk to each of the teams. It is part of the training they receive from our Athletic Communications office,” said Craig Pintens, Senior Associate Athletic Director of Marketing/Public Relations at Oregon. “It’s something we also talk to our coaches about. Our coaches are pretty dialed in to monitoring their own team.”

With other schools who prefer outside consultation, DeShazo enters the picture. He travels the country and works with various universities, colleges, and conferences in discussing how social media can be utilized as an extension of not only the universities’ brand but also, student-athletes’ brand.

As he stated, it’s essentially “free marketing” for a college if the student-athletes are using social media the right way. At the same time, though, DeShazo presents the inherent risks and dangers of the ever-growing number of social media platforms.

Along with education, Fieldhouse Media also incorporates a web-based monitoring system (FieldTrack) into the services it provides. Schools have access to it 24-7, and it can be viewed on any iPhone, iPad, or Android device. For privacy purposes, the monitoring system utilized by the company only views student-athletes’ public Twitter accounts. The system looks for certain keywords, phrases, and other inappropriate language that will raise a red flag to not only Fieldhouse but also, the athletic department using the service.

Even though Fieldhouse only monitors Twitter use, student-athletes are utilizing the entire gamut of social media platforms.

Pintens is quick to point out that student-athletes are no different from the entire student population at large. The difference? Well, if a student-athlete tweets racist remarks or homophobic slurs, they get magnified on a much greater level.

According to a recent study conducted by Fieldhouse, 72% of student-athletes are utilizing Twitter while about 94% of them are on Facebook. Then, there’s Instagram, Instagram, Vine, and even to some degree, Snapchat.

“I hate snapchat. There is nothing good about it,” DeShazo said.

Instagram has recently taken off in the last year, with roughly 64% of student-athletes experimenting with the picture-sharing platform.

Even so, in 2013-14, Vine — the six-second video sharing platform — might be the next big thing.

Darren Heitner, a sports and entertainment attorney based in Miami, cites how videos have the “unique ability to go viral” and how they’re more “heavily consumed than pictures.”

“Athletes can show off their unique ability to prepare through training and workouts, provide valuable insight into their daily lives to their fans and to professional scouts, and are able to enhance what they may provide to the world through pictures on services such as Instagram,” Heitner added.

Regardless what platform student-athletes use in 2013-14, it’s clear that social media isn’t disappearing anytime soon.

“Student-athletes will continue to migrate and use twitter,” DeShazo said. “Anything media related — pictures and video — they’re loving. They are using whatever platforms allow them to share that type of data.”

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