Nowadays everyone has some type of social media, whether it emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. People’s parents have it, people’s grandparents have it, even people’s dogs have social media. It has become an integral part of how we communicate with our peers, our teachers, our bosses and our families. Gone are the days of phone books and landlines. Today it’s all about likes, comments and favorites. Kids are starting to have social media at younger and younger ages. When Facebook came out in 2004, I was in third grade making me about 9 years old. I wasn’t allowed to have a Facebook account until I was 13, not my parents’ rules, those were Facebook’s rules. Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter weren’t popular until I was in high school and I didn’t really use them until college. The scary thing is that I can think of four or five third graders who have accounts with all four social media sites just mentioned. The things that are posted by these third graders are going to still be out there in eight years when they’re applying to college and 10 years when they’re applying to jobs. Something that is posted today, while they are 9, could affect their adult lives. That is why social media is such a tricky thing. Something that could be said as a joke can be construed as offensive and go viral. Even if it’s deleted, one screenshot and it’s out there forever.

Social media has had both a positive and negative effect on the sports world. Twitter has become a virtual sports ban that fans visit before, during and after games. With basically every team, player and coach having a Twitter fans can have a more direct relationship with their idols. This also has a downside, the behavior of a team, player or coach on social media can also directly affect how fans feel about them. If you love how a certain athlete plays on the field but their Twitter feed is full of semi-offensive tweets then that can change how you feel about that athlete and maybe the team as a whole.

Teams and players can also use social media to their own advantage. It can be a place to engage with fans and other teams. According to Anthony DiMoro’s article for Forbes Magazine, Twitter has picked up momentum in the past few years with a total of 492 million Tweets about sports events in 2013. Hashtags also help to create conversations between fans, athletes and coaches. The Stanley Cup Playoffs have the hashtag #BecauseItstheCup and it has become a tradition for fans to have open discussions on different platforms using this hashtag. Individual athletes can also benefit from social media. Marshawn Lynch, a former Seattle Seahawks player, who is well known for his silence during interviews used Twitter to announce to the world that he was retiring. It true Lynch fashion there was no words just a simple picture, but it said enough.

There is also the bad side of social media, the idea that one post can haunt you for the rest of your life. This is an issue seen far too often with public figures, teams and even young kids. Athletes and teams need to be especially cautious about what they say and how it can be interpreted. With professional athletes and teams who have hired people to run their social media this is less of a worry. However, for high school students who are being recruited what is posted on social media can the be the difference between a full ride and no scholarship. A well-known example of social media gone bad is Yuri Wright. He was one of the top cornerback prospects in the country in 2012 and was being recruited by Notre Dame, Georgia and Michigan. Before signing day, Wright was expelled from his high school after some sexually graphic and racially charged tweets came to light. After the incident, Notre Dame and Michigan stopped recruiting Wright.

With social media becoming more popular some coaches have banned their teams from using it while in season. Social media background checks have also become a crucial part of college recruiting. Many schools hire firms to look into their potential athlete’s accounts to see if they can find anything that isn’t appropriate. Social media has become a slippery slope for many athletes and aspiring athletes. Both fortunately and unfortunately, social media isn’t going anywhere and it’s up to us to learn how to use it responsibly.