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Social media and student athletes

It was highlighted in ESPN back in February that head men’s basketball coach at Louisville, Rick Pitino, believes that social media and the internet are “poison” to athletes. I feel as though while social media can be a double edged sword (especially people in the limelight), social media (specifically Twitter) is an increasingly valuable form of communication and there are ways to avoid the distractions that come from the masses.
ESPN.com stated in an article published (along with a podcast) on February 20th, 2014, that “Rick Pitino doesn’t mince words when it comes to social media and sports…He doesn’t like it and believes his Louisville team is better when his players stay away from it.” The article cited Pitino as saying his players admitted to using “social media at least four hours a day,” and he believes this takes his players’ attention away from reading, “more important things,” and “impedes a player’s ability to communicate.” I believe that the exact opposite comes from social media usage, as Twitter and other social networking sites can actually be valuable resources for communication, self-promotion, and “important things.”
According to José van Dijck, Twitter’s “functionality as a network that helps users connect, and to initiate and follow conversations worldwide, obviously generated a mass of tweets and twitterers” (van Dijck, 2013). Van Dijck, a professor of Comparative Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam, claims that Twitter’s main function is to initiate conversation and connect masses of people to a particular discussion. Twitter is “embraced as a tool for connecting individuals and communities of users—a platform that empowers citizens to voice opinions and emotions, that helps stage public dialogues, and supports groups or ideas to garner attention” (van Dijck, 2013). Back in 2010, “Wikipedia listed nine ‘notable uses’ for Twitter, each describing a real-life (or real-time) context in which Twitter had recently functioned as a central tool: in campaigning, legal proceedings, education, emergencies, protest and politics, public relations, reporting dissent, space exploration, and opinion polling” (van Dijck, 2013). Now what were those “important things” you were talking about, Pitino?
I think of things that I have personally experienced through Twitter, and I feel as though there are really important happenings in the world that have been covered by social media and social media has played an essential role in captivating these moments. The Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt immediately pops into my mind — the night my roommate and I stayed up all night seeing how Twitter was able to surface reports about the search for the suspects faster than television news stations. Then I think about social uprisings and movements that were polarized through social media — movements like the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. “Neal Caren, an assistant professor of sociology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, and sociology doctoral student Sarah Gaby” were “tracking the spread of the protests and the role of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter in linking supporters and distributing information. They found, “Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been central organizing locations for spreading information about Occupy Wall Street,” Caren said. “While the focus of Occupy Wall Street is on mobilizing individuals offline, online activities greatly facilitate these efforts. Facebook has become a recruiting tool for bringing in new supporters and getting people to events” (Caren & Gaby). As for the Arab Spring movement, “The Arab Spring uprisings are the first collective movements of their kind in the Middle East after the internet and social media revolutions of the late 20th/early 21st centuries, and tactics, techniques and procedures utilized by resistance populations during the Arab Spring may affect future movements. The factors of social media affecting public opinion and international support, rapid dissemination of news, widespread messaging, and the ability of the individual to spread information globally are relatively new phenomena during revolutions” (Lindsey, 2013). This evidence shows that Twitter was, and continues to be, an effective means of spreading beliefs about particular protests and politics, connecting individuals and communities, and communicating.
“Social media is like a gun. Not-so-smart people will shoot themselves in the foot with it…”
With that being said, “social networking presents new challenges for college athletic programs as college athletes can more easily divulge information about their personal lives and opinions, information that can cause distractions to the team and can lead to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) violations and mass suspensions” (Walsh, 2011). When partaking in the social media experience, there are different rules/guidelines for college athletes, as they are in more of a position that can lead to trouble. Taken into consideration must also be the “private-public dichotomy” that exists for those who are members of the NCAA. Because the NCAA is a private organization, they are not “subject to the First Amendment because (it) is not a government (entity)” (Walsh, 2011). “If a college/university does not regulate Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, and a player commits an NCAA violation using one of those mediums, the NCAA can suspend the player or declare the player ineligible” (Walsh, 2011). This seems to almost eliminate the First Amendment entirely, as per Davis Walsh (writer of Gaio article), “social networking and internet speech should be protected by the First Amendment in the same way that traditional avenues of speech are protected. The Internet has the potential to be the ‘self-operating marketplace of ideas’ that Professor Barron envisioned.” “It is on the shoulders of the student-athletes who represent their schools to use (social media) properly,” The Daily Tar Heel reports, but the NCAA should not be the governing body in determining punishment for something a student-athlete posted on an SNS; that is precisely why the justice and legal system exist. Athletes should not face fear when posting something on a personal page, or when trying to engage in discussion involving personal beliefs, because they do have the right to their own opinion, and Twitter (and other social media platforms) provide the outlet for them.
“Smart people will use it as a useful tool…”
According to a survey by the College Sports information Directors, about half of all the universities in the United States bother to train their student-athletes on how to use social media. As I pointed out, the NCAA is sort of coercing players to avoid social media and coercing coaches to ban SNSs, but “forbidding athletes” and “focusing on the negative only goes so far” (Grasgreen, 2013). “That’s why Colgate University officials are actually encouraging their (student) athletes to use social media often, with a focus on what should be said as opposed to what shouldn’t be” (Grasgreen, 2013). I find this particularly interesting because it is a direct response to the lack of protection by the First Amendment and the subjection to NCAA violations. If more student-athletes were trained on how to effectively use social media, and students understood that it is a marketing tool, more students would realize that Twitter (and other SNSs) are places where a positive image should be created. This is the message that Kevin Deshazo, a social media trainer for Fieldhouse Media, wrote. “Ninety-three percent of college athletes use some form of social media platform every day…colleges need to acknowledge that…They (student athletes) are going to make mistakes, and that’s O.K…That shouldn’t be the end of their life” (Grasgreen, 2013). Student-athletes should be taught to approach social media as a marketing campaign of themselves, and they control how well they sell themselves.
Michael Gaio, eMedia Editor of Athletic Business, wrote an interesting piece I found on the internet, titled “9 Social Media Dos and Dont’s for Student-Athletes.” Gaio recognizes that there are more colleges out there that are trying to educate their student athletes on social media usage, outside of Colgate Universtity and Ohio State University. The Director of Athletic Communications at Edgewood College, David Petroff, is working on educating Edgewood’s “student-athletes on the best practices for social media” (Gaio, 2013). “I don’t want to scare them, but rather have them see the positives and the power of social media,” Petroff says. Both Petroff and Gaio collaborated to note that there are four things to always keep in mind when using any SNS: first, social media is “a tool, not a toy,” second, “nothing is truly private…ever,” third, “if you retweet it (or share it), you own it,” and lastly, “every tweet reflects who you are.” After instruction, “It is (still) in the personal interest of student-athletes to regulate their tweets,” but education on how to properly use social media allows these athletes to “no longer (simply) market their on-field skills, but market their personalities and image” (The Daily Tar Heel).
Rick Pitino believes, “We as parents and teachers, we want our children, we want our players to communicate, to articulate a message, to get in front of a human resources person and articulate their passion for wanting a job…We’re losing our abilities to communicate, especially young people today” (ESPN.com). Newsflash, Pitino…the job application process is almost totally on the internet these days, and employers are utilizing social media sites to evaluate potential employees. So, just as colleges and universities like Edgewood, Colgate, and Ohio State are doing, we should be arming student-athletes with the power to communicate and create a positive image for themselves. This is no “If Joe jumps off the bridge, are you going to do it too?” scenario. By taking away social media and social networking from student-athletes, you are limiting them more: you are taking away a major outlet of communication, you are forcing them to fall behind in how to properly utilize the tools at hand, and you are limiting their ability to articulate their messages and ideas through the platform that everyone is using today. And that goes for all people who are banning the use of social media, whether it be other coaches, parents, schools, etc. Banning SMS/SNS use is doing more of a disservice to those who are unable to access the increasingly vital tools at hand, than it is a service.
There is no doubt that social media platforms are increasingly a part of our day-to-day lives. Each platform is different, but the different platforms allow for rapid, mass communication, efficient and quick connectivity, and, of course, power. As Peter Parker’s late-uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If we disarm student-athletes’ ability to utilize social media, not only are we limiting their ability to communicate, but we are also limiting their ability to promote themselves and enhance their professional image. However, if we continue to educate student-athletes on proper and positives usage of social media, we will eliminate the fear of arming them with their freedom of speech.

Works Cited
– Caren, Neal, and Sarah Gaby. “Sociologist Tracks Social Media’s Role in Occupy Wall Street Movement.” The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Sociology. N.p., n.d. Web.
– Gaio, Michael. “Blog: 9 Dos and Don’ts for Student-Athletes.” Web log post. Athletic Business. N.p., Oct. 2013. Web.
– Grasgreen, Allie. “Tweet Smart, Tweet Often.” Inside Higher Ed. N.p., 20 Aug. 2013. Web.
– Lindsey, Richard A. “What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements.” Small Wars Journal (2013): n. pag. 29 July 2013. Web.
– Pitino, Rick. “Rick Pitino of Louisville Cardinals Sounds off on Social Media.” Interview. ESPN.com. N.p., 20 Feb. 2014. Web.
– “Social Media Has Pros and Cons for Student Athletes.” The Daily Tar Heel. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web.
– Van Dijck, José. The Culture of Connectivity. New York: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.
– Walsh, Davis. “All A Twitter: Social Networking, College Athletes, and the First Amendment.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 20.2 (2011): 619-50. Web.

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How to keep 240 million Twitter users safe: Del Harvey at TED2014

TED Blog

Del Harvey. Photo: James Duncan Davidson Del Harvey. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Del Harvey is watching what you’re doing on Twitter. Head of the Trust and Safety Team at the social network, she develops ways to keep Twitter’s 240 million-plus users safe. With that many people — sending 500 million tweets every day — dangerous things are bound to happen, she says at TED2014.

For Harvey, the day-to-day is hardly boring. “My job is to ensure user trust, protect users’ rights, and keep users safe — both from each other and, at times, from themselves,” she says. “The vast majority of activity on Twitter puts no one in harm’s way; my job is to root out activity that might. [At Twitter], a one-in-a-million chance happens 500 times a day.”

A tweet with exactly the same wording can be, in one situation, a threatening insult towards a stranger, and in another, just a friendly greeting between friends…

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What’s making athletes faster, better, stronger: David Epstein at TED2014

One interesting point Epstein brought up was “the brain acts as a limiter,” and I have never looked at the brain that way. He says, “Human beings are pushing themselves to take on greater physical feats than ever before, which requires a mental push too. “The brain acts as a limiter, preventing us from accessing all our resources to prevent us from hurting ourselves,” says Epstein. “The more we learn how that limiter functions, the more we can learn how to push it back.”

This reminded me of Michael Jordan’s quote, “Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” If we can recognize the things that we feel are limiting us, we can attack those limits and push ourselves even harder…past the points of our limitations. Limits are our own constructions, and today we are seeing people understand that we can live with fewer or no limitations at all.

 

TED Blog

David Epstein. Photo: James Duncan Davidson David Epstein. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” or, in English, “Faster, higher, stronger.” And as sports science reporter David Epstein points out from the TED2014 stage, “Athletes have fulfilled that motto — and they’ve done so rapidly.”

Epstein investigates why it is that, year upon year, runners, swimmers, gymnasts, basketball players and so many others are able to push their sports to new levels. Epstein says that it comes down to three factors: changing technology, changing genes and changing mindsets.

Epstein, the author of the book The Sports Gene, starts by taking a look at runners. The winner of the 2012 Olympic marathon would have beat the winner of the marathon of the 1904 Olympic marathon by more than 1 hour and 20 minutes. Similarly, at last year’s World Championships, 100-meter-dasher Usain Bolt beat the world record set by Jesse Owens in 1936…

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The hardest 105 days of my life: Ben Saunders at TED2014

TED Blog

Ben Saunders. Photo: James Duncan Davidson Ben Saunders. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

On October 25, 2013, adventurer Ben Saunders and his teammate Tarka L’Herpiniere set out to complete Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s failed 1912 polar expedition — a four-month, 1,800-mile journey from the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back.

At the start of the expedition, L’Herpiniere and Saunders each dragged 200 kilograms by sledge, heavier loads than each of Scott’s weakest ponies, and about 100 kilograms more than Scott and his men. Over these four months, the pair faced blizzards, temperatures far below zero and vast whiteouts that forced them to move forward blind.

At TED2014, five weeks after the end of this adventure, Saunders addresses the audience with a dry wit and aplomb that betrays a man who just walked 1,800 miles across Antarctica in 105 days. “I stand here before you,” he says, “as an expert in dragging heavy stuff around…

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Unnumbered sparks fly through the sky, created by cellphone signals

TED Blog

Outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, people gather to interact with Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks. Photo: Ema Peter Outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, people gather to interact with Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks. Photo: Ema Peter

“It looks like it’s holding up the clouds.” “It’s like a sky jellyfish.” “I love how the light moves across it along with the sound.”

[ted_talkteaser id=1164]These were some of the comments heard at TED2014 about Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks, a collaboration between sculptor Janet Echelman and data artist Aaron Koblin. This monumental sculpture stretched 745 feet, from the Vancouver Convention Centre where TED was held, over an open-air plaza on the edge of Vancouver Harbor and up to the top of the Fairmont Waterfront hotel. Every night while the temporary sculpture was installed, from March 15-22, 2014, dozens of people could be seen across the street setting up cameras and tripods to capture the glowing spectacle. Meanwhile, underneath the sculpture, even greater numbers of people gathered, most…

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What Niche Bloggers Can Do to Attract Traffic

This piece was particularly interesting because as a marketing intern for a niche market, there are really vital pointers in here. I spend a lot of time tagging posts in order to drive up traffic and it actually proves successful, because the higher you show up on a Google search, the more likely people are going to find your site. The last point the author mentions is to ensure that your content can be read all over, and this is important in today’s world because people have access to content on their phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc. If they can’t read your content on-the-go, it’s going to be tough to get your blog/company off the ground.

The WordPress.com Blog

As bloggers, we write about our passions and obsessions. Interested in Autism? Drawing? Cooking? Sobriety and recovery? Humor? No matter which subject you choose to write about, there’s a community of people on WordPress.com who share your interests. In today’s post, we’ll look at three ways niche bloggers can find their tribe, grow their communities, and attract traffic to their sites.

Tagging FTW

Tagging your posts is critical to finding your community. When you tag a post, you’re grouping it among posts on that same topic. When a user searches that tag in the WordPress.com Reader, your post will appear in the list of posts returned. Tagging puts you in front of new readers, expanding your reach to those who are interested in the same subjects.

As you tag, be sure to consider related topics. For example, if you blog about cooking exploits and…

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Longreads Joins the Automattic Family

The WordPress.com Blog

Today we’re excited to announce that we are acquiring Longreads, the pioneering service that helps readers find and share the best longform storytelling around the world, for reading on mobile devices.

Over the last five years, Longreads and its community have created a new ecosystem for readers to find great in-depth stories, and for writers and publishers to distribute their best work over 1,500 words. Longreads will continue to do what it does best — recommending stories from across the Internet — and we are excited to have them join the WordPress.com team and continue in their commitment to serving readers.

Mobile reading and the appetite for longform content

As consumption has moved to mobile devices, there has been a growing hunger for longform content: phones and tablets are perfect for enjoying in-depth articles, and there are more moments than ever for readers to dig into a story —…

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Heartbleed Security Update

The WordPress.com Blog

Last week, a very serious bug in OpenSSL was disclosed.  OpenSSL, a set of open source tools to handle secure communication, is used by most Internet websites.  This bug, nicknamed Heartbleed, allowed an attacker to read sensitive information from vulnerable servers and possibly steal things like passwords, cookies, and encryption keys.

Was WordPress.com vulnerable to Heartbleed?

Yes. WordPress.com servers were running the latest version of OpenSSL, which was vulnerable. We generally run the latest version of OpenSSL to enable performance enhancements, such as SPDY, for our users. The non-vulnerable versions of OpenSSL were over two years old.

Has WordPress.com fixed the issue?

Yes. We patched all of our servers within a few hours of the public disclosure.

Has WordPress.com replaced all SSL certificates and private keys?

Yes. Out of an abundance of caution, we have replaced all of our SSL certificates, along with regenerating all of the associated…

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The Art of the Slideshow

The WordPress.com Blog

Images help us tell our stories — and engage our audience. We recently highlighted post sliders and gallery styles as features that add visual punch to our sites, and talked about how the juxtaposition of images can create powerful narratives.

Some bloggers take the idea of visual storytelling to a whole new level. We recently discovered the work of Barbara, the New York-based artist-blogger behind continuousdrawing. Barbara’s elevated the slideshow into a medium for her art. She draws on her iPhone and iPad, then uploads her images to her blog, where she transforms them into slideshows. As the slides flow by, the gradual changes create a hypnotic, animated effect.

140309 sequence, from Barbara’s site, continuousdrawing.

We recently caught up with Barbara to chat about her innovative use of slideshows.

You have an MFA in painting and drawing. How did you make the transition to this…

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