A Lesson in Twitter Reality
By Brandon Castel
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Tuesday, a number of media members re-Tweeted Tweets by Ohio State football players saying they would no longer be allowed to use Twitter under new head coach Urban Meyer.
Those Tweets were then re-Tweeted by more followers, who passed on the information to more followers, who promptly re-Tweeted the ‘breaking news’ to even more followers. That is the way Twitter is designed to work, but it also demonstrates the pitfalls of using a social network, like Twitter, as a method for breaking news.
As it turns out there, there is no Twitter ban at Ohio State, at least not according to the latest round of Tweets from OSU players. Sports information director Jerry Emig also confirmed that he is not aware of any Twitter restriction implemented by Meyer and his staff, but the players certainly seemed convinced after their 7 a.m. meeting with Meyer Tuesday.
“New staff new rules. No more twitter, not a big deal and probably for the better. Love our fans, love this place,” junior Reid Fragel posted on his Twitter account at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday.
Fragel’s post was followed by a number of others, including Jake Stoneburner, Carlos Hyde and Evan Spencer, who announced that Tuesday would be their last day on Twitter because of the new rules at Ohio State.
Only there are no new rules prohibiting players from being on Twitter, or at least we don’t think there are.
“Just now finding out the whole twitter thing wasn't exactly true,” Fragel Tweeted around 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
That didn’t stop USA Today from writing a story about Urban Meyer’s Twitter ban earlier in the day. We also wrote one, as did others, using the original Tweets from Fragel and Stoneburner as quotes to back our story.
That is not a rarity in today’s world, where news is often broken across unusual platforms. The University of Akron recently used Twitter to announce the hiring of new football coach Terry Bowden, but Tuesday’s Twitter ban fiasco was a lesson in Twitter reality.
Not everything we read on Twitter should be believed, even when it comes from an Ohio State football player. There are obviously knuckleheads on every team who use social media like Twitter to screw around. Spend a little time on Twitter and it’s not difficult to pick up on which guys are which.
Reid Fragel and Jake Stoneburner are not two of the knuckleheads.
On Monday, before Ohio State’s 24-17 loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl, Fragel Tweeted that it might be his last game as a tight end for the Buckeyes. As it turns out, it probably will be.
Fragel had already approached Meyer about moving to offensive tackle next season because of the team’s depth issues inside, which he willingly spoke about after the game.
His Tweet on Saturday was a newsworthy and insightful look at a player who could play an important role for the Buckeyes next season. Heck, he was starting the game at tight end, and by next fall he will be a likely be a tackle.
Stoneburner Tweeted Tuesday that he would be returning for his senior season at Ohio State. This after meeting with Meyer this morning, one day after saying he wasn’t quite 100 percent certain what he was going to do.
Because we know it is actually Stoneburner’s account, there seems to be no reason not to believe that he means what he is saying, especially since we know he is not one of the knuckleheads. However, sometimes things get mixed up and the message gets lost in translation.
That seems to be the case with Twitter ban that apparently never was.
“Sorry for the confusion, sometimes people decide to put words in others mouths... That's all I have to say about that,” Fragel posted Tuesday evening.
That doesn’t make Fragel a liar, and it doesn’t make Twitter a danger, as long as we understand that what we are dealing with is not an exact science. Players don’t always know exactly what is going on, even when speaking in person, but Twitter allows a lot more room for confusion because there isn’t really an opportunity for follow-up questions.
Maybe Meyer talked about a Twitter ban and later changed his mind, which seems entirely farfetched and unrealistic. More likely, one player heard something and told another and it spread without anyone actually stopping to verify it.
Kind of like Twitter.
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