Behold! The Ten Commandments of Social Networking as a professional athlete.
1) Be yourself. Don’t have your agent, your media guy, or your “people” post on your behalf. That’s lame, and it always sounds like someone selling school fundraiser tickets is tweeting as you. Even if you only post once in a blue moon, fans want to hear from you, not your representation. Language and the way you use it says a lot about who you are.
2) Don’t do this because you want attention. If you do, you’ll find yourself becoming something you aren’t, pandering for compliments or arguing with people who don’t like you. There should be purpose behind your interaction on social media; because you want to let fans see the real you, creating awareness for a cause, or just meeting people and having fun. If you do it because you want people to tell you how great you are, not only will you be disappointed, but you’ll become shallow, posting because you need to get your fix. Worthwhile attention is something best sought elsewhere through more understanding mediums where people can’t tell you, “YOU SUCK!” then log off.
3) Don’t post like a Douche Bag. What does that mean? Well, you’re a role model for God’s sake. You may not think you are (hey Chuck), but the fact that thousands of people are following and friending you obviously means people care about what you say. If people care about your words, do yourself a favor and think about them before they come out of your mouth. That means, don’t turn your twitter feed into a ghetto fabulous freestyle wherein you slaughter the English language and refer to woman in terms of things you’d like to do to them. Be civil, be responsible, and practice good social etiquette. You may say that doing these things robs you of a chance to be yourself, that it makes you sound fake. Well, friend, all I can say is restraint doesn’t mean not showing people who you are, it mean’s picking the right time and right circles to do it. Some of the best role models in can think of are those who know how to wield self control, and Social Media is a good place to practice it.
4) Learn to use the block button. The internet is great because it lets people with different opinions and views express themselves. On the other hand, the internet sucks because it lets people with different opinions and views express themselves. This means there is going to be some idiot with a keyboard throwing all manner of digital hate in your face. Learn to walk away. Remember, you’re the person with a Buzzillion followers because you made that key play in extra innings and Nike has found it within their deep walleted hearts to plaster your pocked up face in a symphony orchestrated shoe commercial, not this digital turd. If you fly off the handle, you’ll fall from God status, and fan’s heads will explode when they find out your mortal. Save them the trouble of finding a head donor, and just hit the block button. No sense in getting bent out of shape over one bad egg when you’ve got thousands of good ones. Or, you could do something completely unexpected, like say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but thank you for expressing your opinion. Best wishes~ Really Classy Athlete.” Then hit the block button.
5) Realize that you’re huge following has more to do with your job than it does with you. Actually, that’s one of the reasons athletes get on social networks—so they can show people the real them behind all the mythological hype. But, that doesn’t mean people are following you because they want to peal back the layers. If you don’t know by now that people in our country love celebrities for no other reason than they are celebrities, then you are one naive little bunny. Most likely that huge influx of followers and friends you got when you made it public you could be found on Tweetbookspace is because they love the team and, thus, they love you by default. This means two things. One, you’re not That awesome (although, with a little work you could be, and more). And, Two, YOU fans are still rare and to be valued, even in a sea followers and digital friends.
6) Remember that stupid thing you said? It will go away with time. The great thing about living in an instant gratification society is we want continuous instant gratification. You might have tweeted something dumb, maybe even really dumb, but no one is so obsessive that they focus on it 24/7 for the rest of your life— you need at least a sex tape to get that level of fame! Communication is a tricky thing. It seems so easy, but you have to remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how people hear it; meaning they are going to hear what they want, and at some point you are going to say something that is heard wrong by somebody. Can’t please em’ all. When this happens, apologize. It’s not that hard, is it? Then turn the page. If you follow the Douche Bag free rule, you shouldn’t say anything so bad you can’t cover your tracks. If you don’t, well, there is always the Surreal Life.
7) Reply to people. Someone write you a letter about how, growing up, they thought they were going to turn out like you but didn’t and now they live vicariously through you? Get used to it. If you put contact info out there, people will take advantage of it. They’ll send you love letters, hate letters, and yes, those novels about how you have inadvertently effected their life just by playing their favorite game. Remember, you signed up for this so don’t back out now. Oh, and believe it or not, this is the really good part about your job—the part where you get to impact people’s lives. They’re giving you the inside track by opening up a part of themselves and hoping you’ll reciprocate! Do it. It doesn’t have to be major or lengthy, and you don’t have to reply to everyone, but if you can tell people what night club you like best and why in a 140 characters or less, the least you can do is tell a person why their letter meant something to you and why you wish them well.
8) Do a raffle, drawing, or give away. You and I both know you get a lot of free crap doing what you do. Cards, seeds, bracelets, socks, hats, jocks, whatever. You don’t need all that. You could make some scratch on Ebay, or you could make some people really happy by asking a few trivia questions about (your favorite subject) yourself! It’s an ego stroke and a chance to make collectors and fans happy. Your extra set of team logo’ed sweatbands are someone else’s warm fuzzy.
9) Friends don’t let friends Tweet drunk. I can see it now. You and your crew are out at the club. You’ve had a lot to drink because, why not, you’re professional athletes, every day is like Leonardo DiCarprio on the bow of the Titanic screaming, “I’m the king of the world” for you! Well, Jack, you’re about to become the king of the internet when you’re buddy takes that picture of you pressing your nipple against a bar window and puts it on his Facebook account and, in his stupor, forgets to set the privacy settings. Or, worse, your marriage will be in jeopardy when your wife sees that photo of someone else’s nipple pressed against you! Alcohol makes you do stupid things. The Internet makes it everyone’s business. I’m not saying have you shouldn’t have your fun (you wouldn’t listen to me anyways), I’m just saying, if you know you’re going to be operating over the legal limit for sensible social interaction, shut your personal media down.
10) Don’t post about people who are afraid of what said post could do to them. If you make your career in a locker room, you are a going to hear stuff that people don’t want you to take outside the locker room. In today’s day and age, there are more pipelines into the mind of players, their opinions on eachother, and their personal lives than ever before. It can be scary. You have to respect the fact that those around you might not be as excited about you jumping in to the social network scene as you are. Be discrete and confidential when it comes to speaking about your fellow player. Information is a valuable and destructive commodity— handle with care. In an industry where reputations are not easily solidified, your loose tweets can do serious damage to someone else. Social networking is great fun, but it comes with great responsibility to yourself and others.