Derek Jones (@dukecoachdj) is a coach with the Duke University Football program (@Duke_FB). Recently, Jones sent out a series of tweets (showcased below), that truly highlight the potential impact and consequences of social media (and all online communications).

“The quickest way for a good player to get deleted from our recruiting board is to have bad material on social media.”

Not everyone always thinks about what they are posting on social media, whether it is their own words or sharing the words of another. But even a seemingly innocent 140 characters can lead to a life-altering impact and the sporting world is by no means immune. The internet is forever and a single Tweet does not end upon being sent (or even deleted). Once it is on social media, it is out there and people can find it, whether it is a future employer, a potential client, or a recruiter looking for the best athletes for their program. And for athletes, the public eye is always quick to latch on to controversial content.

“Deleting information from social media doesn’t make it disappear. People immediately screenshot controversial material from athletes.”

While this is just a single example (albeit one that could potentially cost an athlete a significant scholarship), there are plenty more examples of how social media can potentially derail an athlete without them even thinking about it at the time. Whether it is a professional football player dismissing fans as second-rate (@ChrisJohnson28); a professional baseball player “liking” posts during a game (@kfp48); or a professional hockey player posting photos with large stacks of cash while fans suffered through a money-driven NHL lockout (@evanderkane_9), social media can change an athlete’s public perception in an instant.

“Freedom of speech gives you the right to say or do what you feel, but understand that there are consequences to your actions.”

Sure, Twitter is an ever-growing, immensely popular platform for people to post their thoughts, their opinions, and even their every move, but there is a limit. It is not a platform that is built just for people to post anything and everything that they see as a source of entertainment. It is still important to be thoughtful during those 140 characters; thoughtful of the content, the context, and the potential impact of every word being shared. Some are better than others at this, but regardless of who you are, it may be wise to remember the words (or tweets) from Jones:

“A few words can cost you the opportunity of a lifetime. Think before you hit send, share, tweet, or post.”

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