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The Twitter Commandments: Rules for a Fan Interacting with Athletes

Social media has exploded in the past few years and its impact on athletics has been monumental. Twitter in particular has brought a small world even closer together as now even you and I have easy access to get our thoughts and comments out to some of our favorite (or least favorite) athletes. This aspect has become especially obvious in the genre of college recruiting. Now 14-18 year olds are not only putting their talents on showcase but also their personalities. Some of the young guys have now grown up with mediums like Facebook and Twitter that us old farts didn’t have a young teens and they certainly know how to use it.

Evansville Bosse freshman and coveted recruit Jaquan Lyle has been chatting back and forth with a plethora of IU recruits including Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Austin Etherington and Trey Lyles. That has created quite a stir across the message boards on his scholastic intentions. So that got me to thinking, because of such public access to these conversations, what is right and what is over the boundaries of good taste? Please follow after the jump as I take a look into the unofficial rules of fandom and twitter for not only recruits, but college and professional athletes alike. How can we take advantage of such an awesome medium without crossing that line?


The following is the results of some discussion with other fans and some research on what exactly is a violation of social good taste. I have compiled a set of do’s and don’ts for using Twitter to communicate with athletes. Some of them, even I have violated in the past, but I am sorry for my sins and have reformed. So without further ado…

DO follow anyone and everyone you so choose. The whole purpose of Twitter is to have access to the thoughts of anyone who posts. The athletes should understand that whatever they say on Twitter is public and it is up to them to censor themselves. Twitter is a brilliant way to get information quickly without hassle and the number of followers is a status symbol for many athletes.

DON’T abuse this privilege. These athletes are still human beings and in the arena of college basketball, they’re most likely younger than you. Understand that in the bigger picture, they are still kids and don’t treat them as anything else. Flaming, trolling insulting or badgering a 16 year old young man for not picking the school you root for is not only creepy but socially unacceptable. Also, you aren't a coach, quit trying to recruit like you are one. You could be in violation of NCAA rules and potentially get IU into some hot water (though not likely, still). 

DO respond if you so choose, to blanket statements and questions. If an athlete asks a question or makes an open ended comment it is most likely because they truly want someone’s opinion and responses. If Vic Oladipo says "what's up Hoosier Nation", he likely is bored and looking for something to do. This does have a flip side to the coin though.

DON’T answer the question if it is rhetorical and if it is something personal such as relationship advice it isn’t a question for you as a fan. Leave that to their friends to answer. Despite whatever experience you may have in the topic, you don’t truly know these people and can’t comment in good context.

DO compliment them on a good game or on a commitment to a program. There is nothing wrong with putting some positive vibes in the direction of anyone, not just an athlete. If they have a bad night and comment on it themselves, then mention something positive back at them. If they don’t mention having a bad night, don’t  tell them about it, trust me they know.

DON’T flood their wall or try and hold a conversation with them. Humans are social animals, I get that. But just because you have a witty comment or response that they then reply to doesn’t make you two best friends. 140 characters aren’t enough to get to know someone, accept that there will always be a wall between you and your favorite athletes.

DO have fun with it. Social media provides access to many types of people. Enjoy it. Ask questions, make comments, reply to posts. Just be conscious of your situation. If this conversation was happening in person what would an onlooker think of your interaction? Would they see it as innocent banter, or would it be creepy to the max that you take such an interest in a stranger?

DON’T jump into the middle of a conversation between other high profile individuals. If IU commit Trey Lyles is going back and forth with prospect Jaquan Lyle, it is OK to look. It is not OK to contribute. That’s weird. These are two young kids having a discussion, would you do that in real life? I hope not. Same goes for pro athletes. If Indy punter and avid Twitterer Pat McAfee is having a Twitter conversation with a teammate, leave the conversation between teammates. Don’t butt in like it’s your business (unless they are obviously pandering to an audience).

FINALLY, DO think before you post. Take a second and think whether this is appropriate to say to someone I don’t know and if they actually care or want to hear what I have to say. If not, don’t post it. But most of all enjoy the experience. It is an amazing tool for information that has lots of perks.