Updated: Jun 30, 2020
The rise of social media has been a beautiful thing. Apps like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have made it so we can share our thoughts, express ourselves, stay connected, and have largely been responsible for moving the world closer together than ever before. It can absolutely be a wonderful experience. But, like everything, it also has a dark side.
With the illusion that anonymity that many apps and services bring, some people feel emboldened to express their darker thoughts, their meaner jokes, and to engage in pile-ons and bullying from what they think is the safety of free expression. People join groups to share dark memes and poor taste jokes; people befriend strangers with ulterior motives and abhorrent ideals, people share off the cuff thoughts that are tasteless and offensive. All of these things can affect whether or not you play at the collegiate level.
Part of the job for coaches and college recruiters is to vet the morals and ethics of their players and potential players to ensure that no one will bring embarrassment to their institution. This means that your social media will be scoured for inappropriate posts, bad taste jokes, or even embarrassing pictures. Sound paranoid? Students have lost both scholarships and spots on the team for all of these things.
There are a few simple rules that anyone should keep in mind before engaging in social media. First and foremost, never assume that your profile is private. You can have your profile as heavily locked down as you can make it when, all of a sudden, the service updates their terms of service without your knowledge leaving your profile exposed and open for all to see. Beyond that, coaches and colleges are sneaky. They can and will try to befriend you so that they can look through your posts for anything unsavory.
With that in mind, take a minute to think about what’s on your profile. Have you ever posted any pictures of yourself acting foolish at a party? Ever made any references to drugs or alcohol? Maybe you shared a meme you thought was funny but had racist or sexist undertones? Used a lot of cuss words? If so, you might want to clean up your profile. When a school you’re trying to get recruited from finds these posts—and they absolutely will—you could be denied entrance and, suddenly, your dreams of playing college ball are destroyed.
Beyond that, colleges are also checking on your friends. If any of your friends have made comments on your posts that might be offensive or embarrassing, that, too, can be cause for scholarship loss or rejection letters. Sound harsh? Maybe it is, but the fact is that all colleges have codes of ethics that must be adhered to, and if a college suspects you might be a problem student then they might decide that admitting you is more trouble than it's worth.
This counts double for any groups that you might be in. Just like your profile, colleges are keeping an eye on the groups you join and the people you associate with in order to make sure there are no red flags. Pay attention to the company you keep. After all, who your friends are can reveal a lot about your character.
None of this is meant to scare you away from social media use. Especially when you’re going off to college, social media can be a great way to keep in contact with old friends and family members. Just remember that nothing on the internet is ever as private as you think and that things said online have consequences—often severe ones—in the real world. Think hard before you post something or share a meme. Generally speaking, if you’d be embarrassed or in trouble if your mom saw it, it’s a good idea not to post it.