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Social Media Allows For Honest Expression... Don't Stifle It

from the don't-tweet-that dept

There's saying that's been making the rounds lately, in talking about journalism, saying that "trust is the new objectivity." The idea is that if you're trustworthy, even if you have a bias, people are more interested in what you have to say. But, of course, that doesn't just apply to journalists. It pretty much applies to everyone, in any business. People are tired of fake connections. They want real connections. That's what connecting with fans is really all about. If you're honest and open, you build trust. And that trust is valuable. So it's difficult to understand why so many organizations work so hard to stifle that kind of openness. We saw it recently with the Washington Post's new social media guidelines, and we've seen it elsewhere as well, such as with sports teams.

For example, JJ sends in the news that the Jets benched a player for a Twitter message, despite the fact that the team is actually more open to having its players use social media to connect with fans. Hearing this, I figured it must be quite a Twitter message -- seeing as there was just a big controversy over a Redskins player who insulted fans via Twitter, calling them "dimwits" and saying they shouldn't give their opinion on the team since they work at McDonalds. But what did the Jets player say that was so troubling?
"1 play in the 1st Half, 4 plays in the 2nd half,.... A bit disappointed about my playing time but very happy and satisfied about the win."
I'm honestly having a hard time seeing how that's a benchable offense. He was entirely honest, and not accusatory. He was happy that the team won, but wished he could have been involved in more plays. He's a professional athlete, and such sentiments are pretty standard. It actually seems nice that he's sharing with fans in that way. He didn't seem to be complaining or disparaging the team or anyone. He just noted that personally he was "a bit disappointed" that he wasn't more involved.

The fact is, the internet lets people connect with others -- either one-to-one or one-to-many in much more direct and personal ways than ever before in the past. Yes, that has some risks and downsides, but on the whole, that openness and connection builds trust and a relationship, and that's important. It makes no sense to try to stifle such communications, whether its a journalist or a professional athlete.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Drew (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:13pm

    In this case, it's the medium

    Players do this ALL THE TIME in post-game interviews. In this case, it's a coach trying to make a proactive statement on his players use of Twitter. I'd argue this had very little to do with the content of the tweet itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    LoL, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:17pm


    I have no words for this kind of stuff when it happens and I'm worried that I'm getting numb because it doesn't even shock me anymore. Still I think the people who did this had a very good reason that seemed logical and reasonable at the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:30pm

    Re: Sillyness

    And I think exactly the opposite, but the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    "I'm honestly having a hard time seeing how that's a benchable offense."

    You're right because it's criminal and he should be locked up for life. Or perhaps sent to death row. Honesty and openness are criminal and we can't encourage an open honest society.

    Or perhaps it's criminal for copyright reasons. Up to five years in jail and/or $250,000 for speculative damages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    AnonY1, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:32pm


    IMHO, this is probably more about the people (as frankly is often the case) than the particular technology. In this case,
    perhaps (pure speculation warning)the player in question and the coach, or others may have had a closed door discussion over this. They agree it is settled. Then the player goes out of his way, and sends a *seemingly* innocuous message. This of course, seems to have a low probability. It also could be the coach took it personally, or also a GM decision. I don't let players of my team, complain~!!etc... So the team publicly extols the virtue of social media (win for them-they're now perceived as hip), while at the same time, continuing the tradition of stifling dissent. Lovely ain't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    fogbugzd, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:40pm


    It sounds to me like a knee-jerk reaction by some administrator with a bean-counter mentality. He said that he didn't play as much as he wanted to? Well, what pro athlete ever plays as much as he wants to?

    We are entering a period when players interact with fans on social networking. If pro sports wants to keep the vast majority of today's young people interested in sports the teams are going to need to permit that kind of relationship. I work with college aged people, and they are different than five years ago. They NEED that kind of connection. The PR people from the teams are going to need to seize on that need if they want to hold the next generation. And they are going to let players have a lot more latitude for honest comment than this example demonstrates. I can see how future scouting reports are going to include comments on how well a player tweets in addition to remarks about on-field performance.

    If and when teams embrace social networking, the next huge challenge is going to trying not to micromanage the players' online persona. I can imagine them having twitter coaches, or even trying to take over with ghost writers. One other thing about today's kids is that they will see through that in a second, and nothing turns them off faster than detecting a fake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    AnonY1, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    thing about today's kids is that they will see through that in a second, and nothing turns them off faster than detecting a fake......

    because it reminds them how plastic-robot-fake most of them have become, and looking in a mirror can be painful? No offense to the rest of your point, I just thought you gushed a little too much. Ho-hum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Re: In this case, it's the medium

    "I'd argue this had very little to do with the content of the tweet itself."

    The guy only had five plays all game? Seems like he was close to being benched anyway. This might be a convenient excuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re: In this case, it's the medium

    You're right, it is the medium. A medium they have no control over. If he said the same thing at the post-game interview, nobody would've cared.

    Because the team and the NFL have control over the interview. They can keep any particular reporter out of it if they choose, for whatever reason. They can limit what the player says, even if it means they have to drag him out of the room while the cameras are rolling.

    The NFL has no control over Twitter. None. How dare a player communicate with people over something the NFL doesn't control.

    Expect to see teams have websites in which fans can 'interact' with the players, if they don't already. But the teams (and thus the NFL) will have control over the website and can take down or limit the interaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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