College Student Athletes and Social Media: The Psychological Impacts of Twitter Use

in International Journal of Sport Communication
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Twitter, the popular social-media platform, is a staple in intercollegiate athletics. Although it is often regarded merely as a pastime, Twitter boasts advantages and disadvantages to college student athletes and their programs. This is primarily due to the nature of interactions and exchanges that take place between student athletes and the general public, be they fans, critics, or somewhere in between. Using a semistructured protocol, the researchers conducted a 75-min focus-group interview with 7 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I student athletes to examine the psychological impacts of Twitter use. A modified version of consensual qualitative research was used for data analysis. Results indicated that student athletes were heavily influenced and affected by Twitter use across various domains in their lives. Participants reflected on both advantages (e.g., avenue for advocacy and moral support and promoting team cohesion) and disadvantages (e.g., receipt of critical tweets and detrimental performance implications) of using the microblogging platform, thereby corroborating extant literature and providing a more balanced perspective of Twitter’s resulting impact. The researchers explicated practical implications including improved social-media training and the development of best practices to support student athletes in their responsible use of Twitter. Further research is necessary to better understand the differences in experiences of student athletes competing in revenue-generating sports compared with those competing in non-revenue-generating sports.

David, Powless, Hyman, Purnell, and Fisher are graduate students, and Steinfeldt, their advisor, in the Dept. of Counseling and Educational Psychology, Indiana University-Bloomington, Bloomington, IN.

David (jldavid@indiana.edu) and Steinfeldt (jesstein@indiana.edu) are corresponding authors.
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