The Effects of Social Media on Student Athletes

Griffin Brunk


It is August of 2015, just two weeks before the University of Iowa football team opens their season at Kinnick Stadium with a game against The Illinois State Redbirds. So, why is this important? Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz has just issued a team wide ban of social media until the conclusion of the season. Why would coach Ferentz do this, to prevent players from getting themselves into trouble, or just to make sure that the players are not reading all of the articles written about them? Either way, coach Ferentz obviously has a method to his madness as his Hawkeyes finished the 2015-16 campaign as Big Ten West Champions, as well as participants in the historic Rose Bowl Game, and his Hawks also set a school record for most victories with 12.

Kirk Ferentz Speaking at a Rose Bowl Presser


This topic is very relevant in today’s day in age. With social media usage being as high as it has ever been, yet still continuing to grow. Almost all athletes whether professional or amateur have some form of social media account. According to Christy Kingan of PIVOT Physical Therapy Blog, “A study done in 2014 by Chris Symeon from CKSyme Media Group measured social media use for Division I and Division II NACAA athletes. On average, only 26% of these athletes has protected Twitter accounts, around 61.5% did not know all of their followers, and 14% had been a victim of online harassment such as unsolicited inappropriate material, account impersonation, angry fans messaging, or cyberbullying.” So, should Kirk Ferentz’ policy become more widely adopted among the college and high school ranks? Could Ferentz’ policy be adopted by professional athletes as well? It is tough to say now, but coach Kirk has some great results to say the least.


What is the impact of social media usage on collegiate, amateur, and professional athletes? It would be very hard to get the input of professional athletes. I would do my research on the University of Iowa Football team and Men’s Basketball team.


One theory that applies to my question is the theory of social influence. Social influence is something that is very common. It is applied to my topic this way. If an athlete has a good game, he may get lots of positive tweets telling him how great he is. The athlete does not necessarily have to believe everything that the people are saying about him but the odds are that he will. The fact of the matter is the more and more people tell somebody something the more the athlete will believe it.


However, this is not always a positive. If an athlete has a poor game, then social media users will let him know. If an athlete has 100 notifications after his game in which he played poorly in, around 90 or so of those notifications are going to be people telling him that he sucks and how he should not even be on scholarship. This can be very damaging to the athletes’ self confidence as well as the athletes’ mental health. It is easy to just tell the person to not believe what everyone else says. Social influence can be very strong especially in situations such as this one, the player may start to believe all of the negative things that people are saying about him. There is one more outcome when it comes to the theory of social influence in this situation. If an athlete sees nothing but negative things posted about him he does not have to believe it. Some of the players that are more mentally strong than others will set out to prove all of his naysayers’ wrong. Meaning, he will work much harder to perform better in his next game and show all of the social media haters that they were wrong about him.

I would do my research on the University of Iowa’s men’s basketball and football teams. My study would go through both of their regular seasons as well as any post season play that either would be involved in.  For my research I would give the players one week intervals. One week they would be granted access to social media, the next week they would not. These one week intervals would continue until the season had come to a conclusion. My first way of analyzing my data would be to view the player’s performances on weeks that they did or did not have social media and see if the social media or lack there of made them perform any better or worse.


I would also interview some of the star players on both teams during the weeks that they used social media. I would ask them about their mindset. I would also ask that if the things said about them were negative how they would respond to that. If they would use it as motivation or if they would let it get to them. Based on all the research I would complete, I am almost positive that I would be able to get a solid answer to my question of what the impact of social media is on student athletes.


The two main methods used in my research would be content analysis as well as experimenting. The experiments would be the games. The content analysis would be analyzing the performances of the players during the weeks with and without social media. In the end I would find that none or limited social media use would benefit the athletes more than using social media their normal amount of time.


The student athletes should be able to use social media. However, they should not be able to have access to social media while their sport is in season and going on. There are far too many distractions on social media for athletes, the safe bet would be to ban social media during the season and let the athletes use it all they want in their offseason as long as they are smart with their decisions while using it.