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Social Media Monsters

Arizona Cardinals OTA’s Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Is technology a boon for mankind...or a bane?

Whether people realize it or not...those who engage in social media on a regular basis have often created a double persona---the public persona---and the private persona. Typically, given the choice of the two, one’s private persona is the devilish one, because media faces can be hidden. Although, there are exceptions.

A few years ago, I started up some very cordial email exchanges with a woman I met on an on-line dating service. Her name was Carol. After a couple of weeks of correspondences we agreed to meet at a restaurant for a drink. When Carol, a tall, slender blonde tucked neatly into a lacy black dress, arrived at the restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was much prettier than her photo.

We ordered our drinks and the conversation started to flow. At this point i was thinking to myself that these on-line dating services may actually work---that is until I asked Carol how an attractive woman like herself had managed to stay single into her 50s. In her profile she wrote that she had never been married.

Carol said, “You know, Walter, you might not believe this, but for most of my life I have been painfully shy.”

I said, “Wow. You don’t seem shy at all. You are very outgoing.”

Carol said, “Yeah, well, that’s because a year or so ago I decided enough was enough---and so I conjured up an alter ego---and her name is Chloe.”

Habbadda habbadda habbadda...what?

After a few seconds to process what she had said, I asked, “So, who am I talking to now? Carol....or Chloe?”

She leaned toward me, squeezed my forearm and looking straight into my eyes, she said, “I am Chloe. And Chloe is very very BAD!”

Habbadda habbadda habbadda...WHAT!!!?

One of the great things about being a teacher is you can always invoke the “school night” excuse for having to leave.

The date ended out in the parking lot where Chloe had me in a headlock---no lie---insisting that I couldn’t leave until I kissed her.

On the ride home, it struck me very profoundly how much we all have the potential to be Dr. Jeckyls and Mr. Hydes. I believe there is a bit of mischief in all of us. The question is---how far are we willing to take that mischief?

The Cardinals new head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been in the news recently because of the measures he and his staff took at Texas Tech to monitor the social media engagements of their players. Kingsbury owned up to the report a few years ago that he and his assistant coaches were going on-line and posing as “cute girls.”

The public reaction to Kingsbury’s ploy has been mixed. Some have been appalled at what they consider to be sleazy and deceitful invasions of privacy. However, others like myself, feel that what Kingsbury and his coaches were dong was actually very smart.

While I am now fully retired from teaching after 40 years, I am proud that my school, Foxborough High School, has always stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to informing our students of the latest social trends and their repercussions. It must have been close to 15 years ago that the principal called the school down to the auditorium for a presentation on the inherent perils of social media trails.

The presenter was a college admissions dean who openly confessed to following applicants’ social media trails in an effort to gauge the true nature of the applicants’ so-called private persona. She said, “it’s amazing what one can find in just a few clicks on the computer.” And she warned the students that, “What you put out there on social media isn’t private---it’s public---and you have to own it---all of it.”

College coaches have the daunting task of trying to keep track of each of their 80 plus players’ academic and social behaviors. If the coaches do not stay on top of the players’ behaviors, it can damage the college or university’s reputation and cost the coaches their jobs. Whether the student/athletes realize it or not, they are representatives of the school and the athletic program.

Therefore, what Kingsbury and his coaches were doing in trying to assess their players’ so-called private personas was akin to what college admission officers do in assessing the integrity and true character of their applicants.

In recent years, we have seen a number of high profile draft prospects get exposed for dubious social media behaviors. In 2016, a video was released right before the draft of Ole Miss offensive tackle, Laremy Tunsil, smoking marijuana from a gas mask bong. The video went viral and Tunsil’s draft stock suddenly was jeopardized. Tunsil was projected to go #6 to the Ravens, but wound up sliding to the Dolphins at #13. That, as it turned out, was an $8M slide.

In 2018, some racist tweets that Wyoming QB Josh Allen had made a few years prior were released the day of the draft. Allen deleted them immediately, but it was too late. Allen said that he was much younger and immature when he wrote the tweets and that he was sincerely sorry for his mistake. That may have cost Allen the #5 draft slot to the Broncos.

This year, DE Nick Bosa, was scrutinized for having previously tweeted out his opinion that Colin Kaeperick was “a clown.” Bosa walked back the statement and apologized for it. As was the case with Josh Allen, Bosa said the tweet was the result of immaturity.

But, going back to Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech for a minute, it is scary to think of the kind of trouble that college students can get in, particularly when they are high or drunk or horny---or just plain stupidly immature.

One of the worst examples imaginable is what happened to Tyler Clementi in 2010. Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers, was coming out of the closet for the first time in his life and asked his roommate, Dharun Ravi, if he could have the dorm room to himself for a couple of hours because he had a date coming over. Ravi assented, but proceeded to leave his computer video on with the intention of taping Clementi’s rendezvous.

Afterward, Ravi shared the video of the men kissing with hall mates and then posted it on social media.

A couple of days later, on Father’s Day, after suffering the horrifying humiliation of what his roommate had done, Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge.

Therefore, colleges make it their business to know if any of their applicants or current students are posting racist, homophobic, misogynistic, belligerent, bullying, sexual, pornographic or insensitive messages and/or videos on social media.

Just this week, Harvard University rescinded their admissions commitment to Kyle Kashuv, a Parkland student who in the aftermath of the mass carnage at Marjorie Stoneham Douglas High School, has remained steadfast in his 2nd Amendment advocacy, while the vast majority of his classmates have been actively lobbying for stricter gun laws.

According to CNN, Kyle Kashuv disclosed the rescinding Monday in a Twitter thread, acknowledging that he and classmates, then 16, made “abhorrent racial slurs” in digital messages almost two years ago “in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible.”

While Kashuv wrote a lengthy apology to Harvard and requested a face to face opportunity in to achieve reconciliation, Harvard called his letter “thoughtful”, but denied his request.

While NFL teams might be a little more amenable to accepting apologies for past social media transgressions, many colleges are not. In fact, any time a college can use a student as an example, they eagerly do so. Keeping as tight a rein on the students as possible is a key component in trying to maintain the college’s reputation.

You cheat---you’re gone. You lie---you’re gone. You humiliate yourself or others---you’re gone. You discriminate---you’re gone. You abuse---you’re gone.

The NFL has been trying very diligently to impose strict penalties on players who violate the league rules and the rules of law.

Therefore, in your opinion, should Kliff Kingsbury, his staff and the Cardinals’ administrators try to keep close tabs on the social media behaviors of their players?

Some teams have gone as far as putting tails on some of the players they have serious concerns about. Do you approve of that?

What are your thoughts?