We’ve all done it. In a heated moment we let the object of our anger get all 140 characters or a multiple there of. And at the moment it feels good. We’re vindicated. But I believe you would agree with me that that feeling begins to change as we let the circumstances settle around us. “Maybe I was too harsh” or “I definitely could have been the higher person and not taken to social media.” Years ago, before social media and email, a heated exchange would not be forever in most cases. Your “not thought out” interaction would last for a little until you apologized, but not be recorded. Today those circumstances don’t exist. We live in a generation that thrives off those heated and mistaken exchanges. People think that they are safe until someone screenshots a tweet or snaps a video of something that you misspoke.
Once your mishap is out for the world to see it is out of your hands and gone forever. I’m speaking from personal experience. I was a redshirt junior in the summer leading into our 2011 football season at the University of Georgia. As people of the state of Georgia know, football players at UGA like to get scooters to be able to navigate the large campus in Athens.
I was leaving the old Bolton dining hall with my best friend Ty Frix after a long day of summer classes and workouts. We were driving on backroads trying to make our way back to Lumpkin and we came to an intersection that was very hard to see around for oncoming traffic. Ty and I had come to a complete stop side by side. A police officer was driving in our direction and from his point of view it appeared that I had run the stop sign. Instead of taking the right method to handle the situation I chose to take something already negative and turn it into one that shed light on my immaturity. As soon as I got to my house I took to twitter in more than one tweet:
“It’s official. Athens police are maliciously going after football players on scooters. There’s nothing u can say to change my mind.”
“Ticket reads that it was cloudy rainy, wet ice, medium traffic, ON A DIRT ROAD…it’s sunny outside. not raining. There were no other cars and I was on a NORMAL ROAD. If they can’t tell the conditions how are they a cop?!”
“I’m from Atlanta and I’ve never seen such blatant hunting of a group of ppl by police. I respect their service but misguided motives. Can’t even read the officers name on the ticket. #Smh”
“Worst part about it is I can’t go to court because it’s the week of the Boise st. Game. #Smh. Can’t fight it.”
Sometimes I have to pause and slap that 21 year old me in the face and say, “What in the world were you thinking?!” This lapse in judgment still bothers me to this day. There are a several reasons why this behavior of mine should be avoided.
First, as a student athlete at one of the finest universities in the SEC, it’s safe to say that the spotlight for these types of issues is extremely bright. The media would love to grab this, which they did, and draw attention to an immature player who verbally disrespected the law enforcement system. In recent days, there have been many controversies in regards to dealing with the law and as a young man its important to know that the individual who pulled me over was doing his job. He didn’t use excessive force in pulling me over, he simply wrote me a citation that I was allowed to appeal. There was no need to make this bigger than it needed to be. I let my emotions get the best of me and in most cases like this; emotion is the driving force in making a bad decision. When something happens, taking the time to reflect before reacting is the most important fail-safe to avoid these type of situations.
Secondly, like the NCAA commercials say, “Just about all of us will be going pro in something other than sports.” Why is this statement important? 92% of employers report sometimes or always checking a candidate’s social media accounts and 46% of employers say social media has some influence or a significant impact on hiring decisions. Meaning if something does happen, chances you are you are going to have to sit down in front of a future employer and explain what happened. If you even get that chance. And for those of you that are trying to play sports at the next level, you can guarantee this type of situation will come up in the evaluation process. No one wants someone in the workplace that’s a loose cannon when things don’t go their way. Don’t let a moment of weakness prevent you from achieving those career goals you want to attain years after you’ve left the playing arena.
Finally, as a former student-athlete and, most important a teammate, you have to know that no one person is bigger than the whole. No matter what team, university or state you play for, you’re a smaller part of the whole. You don’t just represent yourself anymore. You must behave in such a way that all those that came before and come after, would be proud. I was lucky to have a coach that called me and didn’t berate me, but took the time to educate me on these principles. Coach Richt took the time to understand me, knowing that I was an immature college athlete and that even though I was feeling certain emotions, I needed to take a step back, and re-evaluate the situation.
I am thankful that this event wasn’t something that prevented me from playing or got me kicked off the team. We’ve seen in recent days that college athletes and coaches have made life-altering decisions on social media. It’s important to know that you have to be careful, take a step back, let you emotions settle, then post.
Take time before you tweet.