Social media has fundamentally changed how our society works. We now consume our information in different ways, communicate through different mediums, and develop and maintain relationships through a different lens. All of this has led to a societal shift and the ramifications of that altered dynamic will not be known for decades to come. In the realm of athletes and development (and everything that entails), social media has provided athletes and their families a platform to promote and display their accomplishments. It has also provided the same athletes and families the opportunity to be mislead by different entities/businesses and to promote false personas to send off an altered sense of reality. All those can contribute to the Social Media trap and the current state of affairs we find ourselves in. The Social Media trap has 3 main players, all contributing to the false perceptions and personas that are now rampant on our phones and in our lives.
Athletes love posting their accomplishments on social media and getting attention for their hard work. On the surface, there does not appear to be anything wrong with that. And for the most part, there isn’t. Self promotion can be a valuable exercise, especially if the athlete is truly accomplished and has a lot to brag about. In the social media era, athletes have to build their brand and that can lead to financial gain, sometimes even outpacing what they might make as an athlete. Where the Social Media Trap can happen for athletes is when they are faking things for notoriety and social media “likes and follows.” They are more concerned with who follows them, how many accounts liked their post, and what the perception is to what they posted. The fact that it might not be true is besides the point, it’s only about how the post is perceived. This is not how the real world works. In the real world those that want to be successful must actually produce results, a person isn’t allowed to fake it or promote off of perception. This goes hand in hand with the studies that have been conducted that have found strong correlations with large amounts of false social media posts and low self esteem by those posting.
The Social Media Trap for parents is similar to the motivations the player uses, but it does come from a different lens… from that of a biased nurturer. Parents desperately want what their kids want. We know kids want more likes, followers, recognition, so parents are willing go to great lengths to make that happen. This can present itself in many different forms, from gossiping with other parents at a game to lying to others to drive up perception or downgrade deficiencies. The Social Media Trap can happen for parents when they present fake or misleading posts that make others think something about their child, even though it is not true. This is dangerous in multiple ways, including teaching a child that this is the right way to function and basically lying on a public forum. Parents can become so blinded by the motivation to positively portray their child, they forget about societal norms and can deviate from the normal right/wrong mindset most of us understand. The problem is that mindset will never lead to actual success or positive results… it’s fake. Parents should support their children and motivate them to achieve, this is not a fake ’til you make it situation because the real world comes for everyone, no matter what is posted on social media.
Scouting and Recruiting Agencies
The many scouting and recruiting agencies that are prominent on social media have a very thorough understanding of the insecurities and anxieties players and parents exhibit and have built their business models around that. Preying on those fragile mindsets on athletes and parents make these companies the bad actors in the Social Media Trap. Athletes and parents motivations are to promote themselves in hopes to gain something out of it (even if it’s altered), but the scouting and recruiting agencies are profiting off of that. They know how desperate the athletes and parents are to see positive coverage on social media, so they hold many events and cover many athletes, posting positive things at all times, with the sole motivation to get parents and players to pay for a profile and subscription. There are not standards for the players these companies highlight, they just want paying customers. They often inflate reality and use fancy “scout” words to make athletes and parents feel like the company is an authority on the topic, all the while it is just setting the trap and making athletes/parents think that if something positive is posted about them then it means that they are good, or someone will notice them for recruitment, or they might get social media “famous.” On paper, this all seems silly and very easy to see through this scam, but in the world of the Social Media Trap, this cycle is not only common, but thriving in the industry and market space.
We need to live in the real world and understand social media for what it is… a form of communication and an open forum where anyone can post anything they want. It is not reality and most posts do not accurately reflect reality. Athletes and parents need to understand that posting altered or false perceptions does not lead to any tangible benefits and that falling for the trap many scouting and recruiting services set with their social media posts just continues to feed a system that is not based on facts or objectivity, rather it is a system built on the the foundation of misconception and altered reality.