Who would have imagined we could share our every thought and action with everyone on the internet? We have dozens of social media websites to connect ourselves with people from around the world. The one catch with sharing, though, is there are no take-backs and no do-overs. Once a tweet, Instagram picture, Facebook post or Snapchat is published, it can live on the internet forever.
Every social media user is at risk of something they post coming back to haunt them. People with a larger platform face an increased risk because there are more eyes on them. Celebrities, politicians, activists and athletes can all fall under this category because many people are listening to what they have to say. Every student-athlete at the University of Utah has been taught how to be a smarter social media user. Athletes discuss topics such as using appropriate language when talking about other teams and officials as well as our own teams.
My general rule is that if I wouldn’t want my grandma to see it, then I don’t post it. It is also beneficial to remember that as a member of an Utah Athletics team, I am not only representing myself and my family, but the university. Whether you are a student or student-athlete, what you say can reflect your reputation and the school’s reputation. You are also associated with your hometown, your current job and other organizations you are involved in. If you face negative backlash, all of these establishments could, too.
It only takes one post to go viral on social media, which can be a good or bad thing. Social media gives people a chance for their voice to be heard and it allows the knowledge of important issues to be spread quickly. At the same time, an inappropriate post can spread like wildfire.
I believe most people are unaware their posts will be seen by more than their followers or friends. They fail to think about the consequences of a single tweet. What may seem like a joke to a group of friends can come across as racist, sexist and so forth to millions of internet users.
People have lost jobs and athletes have lost scholarships due to their social media posts. Coaches can follow potential recruits and see everything they are up to. This can sometimes help them to decide if a young athlete is a good fit for the team.
Social media must be used carefully, but it is a great way to stay connected. When I am far away from home, I can still update my family by posting on social media. Social media has helped me stay in contact with friends since leaving for college and it has also kept me updated on my community back home. I always know what’s happening on the Utah campus or what’s going on at the high school I graduated from. I am an avid social media user, and I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, but with all the connectivity comes responsibility.
Everyone needs to be mindful of what they post online regardless of whether they have 20 followers or 20,000. As an athlete, I want my platform to reflect the things I believe in and stand for. What I post on social media directly plays a role in how I market myself to coaches, fans and people of all ages and backgrounds who may follow me or look to me for any inspiration. Use your platform for good, not evil, and be mindful of what you post.