Responsible Social Media: Why A.J. Barker Was Wrong Even If He Was Right

As a Social Media Professional, I have to catch myself at times when using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for personal use. I think to myself “Is what I am about to post worth the attention it deserves?” Meaning, Am I willing to back-up this comment and take the criticism?

A couple weeks ago, starting Wide Receiver for the Minnesota Gophers quit the Football team publicly by making a blog post on his Tumblr account. This letter explain the situation he was involved in this season and how frustrating it was for him how he was treated. Even if everything he wrote was completely true, A.J. Barker was wrong for posting this letter on social media. Now if it was enough that he listed the reasons for quitting the team, he Included a list of Manipulative Tactics by Coach Jerry Kill which include lying, lying by omission, denial, rationalization, minimization, intimidation, selective attention, guilt tripping, shaming, vilifying the victim, playing innocent, confusion, and anger. People post these types of letters of angst to gain attention, pure and simple. It might not be intended as personal attention, but more negative attention for whom the letter is written to. In this instance I can understand Barker’s side of the story. Hearing from family and friends that have played Division-I sports, it can be rough when you are injured or not performing well. You were brought in to do a job. When you do it well, you MIGHT receive praise and accolades. But, when you are under performing or injured, you can be easily cast aside for the next athlete on the depth chart. I mentioned a comparison that he was brought in to do a “job”. This comparison brings the argument that College Football players should be paid for the revenue they help generate for their institution (but that a completely different argument for anther time). This whole “job” comparison though, brings up a hypothetical that leads me to believe that A.J. Barker loses no matter what.

A.J. will graduate from college soon, but from where? He has the opportunity to transfer and play for another Division-I team immediately if he wishes. But what coach is going to give him a shot after the airing his grievances publicly instead of addressing them behind closed doors. I can’t imagine a “reputable program” giving him that chance. Then, if he continues his education at the University of Minnesota and receives his degree, what employer would take the chance on him? If this were someone quitting their job by writing a letter directed to his boss and released it publicly for everyone to see, I am sure they would never receive a referral for future employment in the same industry and same region. This infographic shows 91% of employers search candidates on social networking sites. Even if this story didn’t gain national exposure, I am sure employment difficulties would still exist with this letter still viewable on his account. This situation feels very similar to the story of Greg Smith of Goldman Sachs. Upper-Level Executive releasing all the dirty details of his investment group with his only goal to expose crooked practices. Sound familiar?

This biggest thing I try to hammer home with college graduates is how to be responsible on social media. It simply comes down to a manner of common sense, “How will this post be perceived and how will I be perceived once its on the web?”

I really hope his choice to share his disengagement with his coaches and team does not effect his future as much as I think it will.

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