But players shouldn’t be the only ones held accountable for what they tweet. As high-profile Twitter transgressions continue to pop up in our collective timeline, an important question should resurface like a Charlie Sheen-inspired hashtag: What role do fans play in the space student-athletes occupy online?
Conventional wisdom, Bob Stoops and a decent attorney might say none. They may be right. Mixing Twitter with underage celebrities and our unhealthy preoccupation with them spells potential disaster. But because we know that won’t keep us away, here are a few simple guidelines to avoid becoming part of the growing problem.
—Leave recruiting to the staff. It’s become popular for the tech-savvy superfan to take recruiting into his own hands. Not only is it inappropriate to lay a 140-character sales pitch on a stranger in the 11th grade, it’s borderline sad. Let him make his decision in peace.
—Don’t be the “Twitter tough guy.” We type things we don’t have the nerve to say. Behind a keyboard we’re more inclined to administer the Russell Westbrook treatment on a kid who just blew the game and has a weakness for browsing his name as a trending topic. He’s logging on to find hundreds of insults and personal attacks. Adults should know better.
—No one likes an instigator. Not only is it tacky to pile on a student athlete, it also makes him vulnerable to potential violations. Twitter makes it easy for all to disperse raw emotion with no filter, but the consequences are likely much greater for the player. When Landry Jones depresses his right index finger, his 140 characters of choice are monitored by thousands of followers, the OU compliance office and mainstream media. Ours are monitored by Mom and possibly a few ex-girlfriends. If you’re an instigator, don’t tweet on game day.
—You are what you tweet. While not exactly the Barry Sanders of Twitter, Anthony Weiner taught us one thing: What is done in darkness will be brought into light. Our online behavior should be no different than our public behavior. Think twice before typing that expletive-laced tirade directed at the walk-on placekicker.
—It’s easy to spread rumors. Twitter changed how news is reported. Information is passed along so rapidly that fact-checking takes a backseat. Learn who has reliable information before retweeting. It’s not just a kid’s reputation on the line.
—Act your age. I love OU football — perhaps less than the man who nearly de-scrotumed a Texas fan at Henry Hudson’s in 2007 — but just as much as Toby Keith. But following our favorite player doesn’t have to mean behaving like a preteen clamoring for a Justin Bieber tweet. Not cool.
—Create boundaries. Don’t let Twitter consume your life. As my wife, who dislikes any form of social media and has a husband known to log on six times before dessert can tell you, it’s easy to get a little Twitterhappy. It’s on us to know when to step away.
Buckner is a Virginia-based graduate of Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma.