The Clemson and Florida State University football teams are banning their respective players from using social media during the season this year.
No Twitter, no Snapchat, no Instagram, no Facebook. (Although, as my son likes to tell me, no self-respecting youngster is on Facebook anymore. “Dad,” he said, by way of explanation, “Facebook is for older people to hook back up with their high school sweethearts.” Alrighty then.)
I have just one question about this whole ban, however.
Why ban one of the most important tools for communication that we all can utilize, not just high school students or college football players? This isn’t just a fad. We are in a new age, the digital age, but this era will never end it will only evolve. We talk lovingly about the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance, but the Digital Age will be evergreen. New technologies will advance and enhance information gathering.
Ask yourself this question – when was the last time you saw somebody under the age of 25 pick up a newspaper or sit down at 6:30 to watch the national news? This is not how this generation gets its news these days. They get it on social media.
And, to steal and paraphrase another movie line, with great social media comes great responsibility. So in a sense, I get it. For Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, this is less about his players catching up on the news and every other bit of information they need as it is being about saying the wrong thing on social media or getting into it with fans.
And less face it, even fans of your own team can be ruthless, much less the trolls from other schools.
It was USA Today that first reported about the social media ban, and that was the gist of the story: it’s not that the players can’t necessarily read social media, they are just banned from commenting on it.
“It’s good that we shut it down,” Clemson’s Eric Mac Lain told the paper. “I love interacting with people and it’s a great way to build our brand, but during the season you don’t need any of that. When something bad happens, people are going to come at you from all angles, which is unfortunate. You don’t need that negativity.”
“I’ve been immature – I’ve gotten in a back-and-forth before, then I go back and look and think, ‘Why would I do that?’ ” Mac Lain’s teammate, D.J. Reader, said. “But I haven’t done that in a long time. There are people out there just trying to mess with you, so I don’t do the back-and-forths anymore. Tempers can flare, and if you lose a game, people are moaning and groaning at you, so it’s good that you can’t reply because most people reply with their emotions and don’t think before they type.”
But even that is a bit troublesome to me. Football coaches throughout history have said how the sport teaches more than just the game. It teachers leadership and responsibility and myriad other character traits. Yet if that’s the case, why aren’t Swinner and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and, certainly, many others, extending these life lessons to social media?
FSU’s off-campus difficulties with its student-athletes have been well-publicized, to the point where the program is restricting the players from hitting Tallahassee bars. But you can’t ban everything.
In the end, social media is a bit more benign. At some point, some of the same responsibilities that coaches ultimately allow their student-athletes will have to be extended to social media. It’s as much a part of life as going to the campus pub.
Besides, there is a current ad campaign running in which it cautions athletes to “don’t let 140 words ruin a $140,000 scholarship.” If student-athletes can’t be trusted to make the right judgment call about social media, I would be concerned about them making the right judgment call on the field.