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Impacts of Social Media on Athletes: Colleges Students’ Perceptions

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Impacts of Social Media on Athletes: Colleges Students’ Perceptions

Christopher Ranalli

The State University of New York at Brockport

Abstract

Perceptions of college students regarding factors that impact athletes due to social media use was pursued. A 5 point agree/disagree Likert-scale survey questionnaire containing 24 impacting aspects was handed out to a class of students at the College of Brockport. The range of responses from which to choose were: strongly agree-5, agree-4, neither agree nor disagree-3, disagree-2, and strongly disagree-1. The return of 31 of 31 surveys made for a 100% return rate. The top strongly agreed (5.00) or agreed (4.00)  perceptions of college students regarding factors that impact athletes due to social media for each category were as follows - general impacts: connecting to fans (4.16), and responsibility for their posts (4.16); self-interested reasons: connection with fans (4.29), and other athletes (4.13); inappropriate comments: team negativity (4.19), and racial comments (4.19); alternative actions: training courses (3.29), and website protection (4). For the purpose of educating college athletes, the main concern of coaches and administration should be to improve their students with awareness of the different social media impacts.

Impacts of Social Media on Athletes: Colleges Students’ Perceptions

        The effects of social media has recently made significant impacts on the lives of college athletes in both positive and negative ways (Osterman, 2015). Although awareness for these athletes have risen over time, there is still a constant concern for them to overcome the issues that is created when using social media sites (Duggan, Lenhart, Lampe, Ellison, 2015). Today social media is currently one of the most used forms of communication within society, with majority of the users being in high school or college (Duggan, 2015). Educating the younger generations of the risks that come with using social media is a major challenge for these educational systems (Steinbach, 2012).

        Although students continuously submit inappropriate posts on their personal pages, athletic department’s creation of rules and standards for social media is a major step forward in constraining what their athletes write online (Seip, 2015). There is still a feeling of unease that remain however, that social media creates issues for college students in today’s society (Karadkar, 2015).

This research study examined college student’s perceptions of social media use that impact college athletes. Overall there have been little experimental research that has been conducted that acknowledges these perceptions of college students, but over the past several years more research have gone into studies as the popularity of social media has risen. The present study helps to add sufficient information by surveying perceptions of current college students that are taking a sport management class at The College of Brockport.

Review of Literature

College Athletes and Social-Media Use

Social media posts are distributed in many different ways and can also be interpreted by others in multiple different ways. Social media sites are an environment in which alcohol-related content is frequently created and consumed by adolescents and young adults (Moreno, 2009). College students have made posting inappropriate pictures and other things of the sort are the norm today (Miller 2010). Posting underage consumption of alcoholic beverages and using sexually language on their profiles can be seen routinely as well (Peluchette & Karl, 2009). Peluchette and Karl conducted a study consisting of college students Facebook profiles which informed “that 53% of the profiles contained pictures of alcohol consumption, 20% had comments about sexual activity, 20% had seminude or sexually provocative photographs, and 50% had profanity” (Peluchette & Karl). After reviewing the results, it can be considered that college students do not care of the possible consequences that come with getting caught posting inappropriate content.

The two most used social media sites by college students and athletes today are Twitter and Facebook. A 2015 survey on the social media use of 927 student-athletes that participate in NAIA and Division I, II, III revealed 73% have an account have a Twitter account, 94% have a Facebook account (DeShazo, 2015). Student-athletes shared that Twitter was a valuable and convenient resource to keep in contact with others (Browning & Sanderson, 2012). Another way that student-athletes reported frequently using Twitter was by communicating with their followers (Browning & Sanderson). For some student-athletes, this involved motivating and encouraging their followers (Browning & Sanderson). Student-athletes also conveyed that they used Twitter to keep up-to-date of game information, which at times they actually did during the game (Browning & Sanderson). DeShazo’s survey results also shows that 6% of the participants have checked social media during one of their games, while 3% say they’ve posted to social media during one of their games (DeShazo). Researchers also have noted that fans follow athletes' Twitter feeds because they enjoy reading what the athlete writes and that they receive information on what the athlete is doing that they can’t get elsewhere (Clavio & Kian, 2010). Although student-athletes are prohibited from using social media during games, it appears that some of them willingly circumvent these rules, enticed by the ability to get “real-time” commentary about their individual performance or the collective performance of the team (Browning & Sanderson). Social-media platforms such as Twitter seem to incite the worst in people, forcing student-athletes to adapt to criticism leveled at them in these digital domains (Browning & Sanderson).

Athletes at any school are automatically put into a leadership position whether they like it or not (Gibbs, 2013). They are ambassadors for their school when they are traveling and they have a very strong presence on campus (Gibbs). Social-media platforms such as Twitter provide tremendous connective capabilities for fans and athletes (Sanderson, 2011a; Sanderson & Kassing, 2011) that can be both positive and problematic (Browning & Sanderson). Celebrating victories ranks alongside connecting with friends as a key trigger for engaging in social media sports activities (Broughton, 2012). More than two-thirds of fans claim they are more likely to participate in more conversations and engage in more content such as brand promotions when their favorite team is winning than when it is losing (Broughton). The fact that student-athletes are amateurs and students appears to be lost on some fans, who feel the need to criticize student athletes via Twitter (Browning & Sanderson).  Florida Atlantic’s athletic director Patrick Chun stated "We've got to keep reminding our kids to take the high road and be real vigilant about the things you say or sometimes you don't say, which could be more important. You don't know what's going to trigger a negative thing, but you just have to remind kids that everything (they) say does have an impact" (Auerbach 3). Although some student-athletes refuse to let these critiques fracture their identity or use these challenges as motivation to improve, others are clearly affected by these tweets (Browning & Sanderson). DeShazo’s study also discovered that 13% of student-athletes have received hateful tweets from fans while 22% have responded to hateful tweets from fans (DeShazo). Student-athletes disclosed a variety of methods for responding to critical tweets, which ranged on a continuum from no response to strategically responding (Browning & Sanderson). Student-athletes talked about a practice they labeled subtweeting, whereby they would respond to a person without naming that person’s Twitter ID (Browning & Sanderson). Athletes are an extension of their school and schools need to make quick moves to ensure that their reputation isn't ruined, which is why suspensions and loss of scholarships are becoming more relevant in this social media age (Gibbs).

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