It was the video nobody saw coming posted from NFL draft prospect Laremy Tunsil’s Twitter account minutes prior to the NFL Draft this past April: Tunsil wearing a gas mask and smoking an illegal substance from a bong. The final result: the once-predicted No. 1 overall draft pick being passed by several teams before the Miami Dolphins selected him 13th overall. People should be aware of the powers of social media and how in the long run—they can ruin one’s reputation all with one click of a button.
It is important for student athletes and journalists to keep clean social media profiles, according to LA Daily News sports reporter Tarek Fattal. As a sports journalist, Fattal believes social media can shape an image, give a first impression, and certainly be a tool for both good and bad. It is a large part of our culture now, which is hard not to ignore.
“The social status of athletes nowadays is almost scary, but if the status can be used the correct way… the sky’s the limit. As athletes, you never know who is looking up to you,” Fattal said in an email interview with The Standard, the newspaper of Sierra Canyon School. “So I always tell young athletes to be on your best behavior at all times. Because you never know who’s watching. Social media is the same. The cleaner and more positive your content is, the larger your impact will be on people, even if you don’t know it.”
The same can be said about students who aren’t athletes. As seniors are in the midst of college applications, they must be aware of the growing numbers of college admissions counselors browsing through applicants’ social media profiles throughout the admissions process. Exactly 40 percent of admissions officers visit student’s social media pages, according to a 2015 survey conducted by KaplanTestPrep.com. This number has quadrupled since the amount in 2008.
Like Fattal, Director of College Counseling Stephanie Rubin believes it is important for students to keep their social media presence as clean and professional as possible.
“It’s always going to be important and something we’ll always preach to students to keep their sites clean because you never know who will look for it. The more specialized programs, honors college, a scholarship, and a sport, that’s when it’s mostly likely to happen,” said Rubin. “I think for general admissions, it’s probably unlikely, but it’s never a bad thing. I have known students who have had admissions decisions revoked because of actions they have done on social media.”
Websites like Kaplan Test Prep and Ivywise provide tips for both current and future college applicants on managing their social media accounts smartly. Some tips include de-tagging yourself from any questionable content, using the “Grandparent Test”, meaning if one doesn’t want their grandparents to see it, then you shouldn’t post it, and posting material showcasing your interests.
In a YouTube video by Kaplan Test Prep, the main triggers for admissions counselors to conduct research about applicants consist of interest in a special talent, verification of significant awards, criminal and/or disciplinary records, and consideration for scholarships or special programs.
To raise more awareness on the issue, a new social media honor code, established over the past summer by The Standard was signed by staff members on Sept. 9. By signing the pledge, all staff members promised to report the truth on all of the newspaper’s social media accounts. They must uphold all important values of social media, which include finding out what it means from all perspectives, reporting the truth, respect and transparency, and maintaining a good online reputation.
“I think it’s a great idea to remind people who every word counts and to take what they do very seriously and that when they are reporting for SC Publications, they have to be thinking as a reporter and thinking professionally,” Publications Adviser Susan Turner Jones said.