Social media is defined as websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat, and YouTube are all great ways to connect with each other and share useful information. Social media can be a two-edged sword. It can build up and it can tear down. It can galvanize people for good or it can become a great distraction and problem, especially for athletes. It is not a tool that can be taken lightly. If you post it then it is out there forever. There is nothing private that you post on social media, even if you restrict access to your accounts. If you like, repost, or retweet something, then chances are that’s how you feel. New Arizona State coach Herm Edwards was speaking to a group of NFL rookies. He was giving them the principles of using social media. A lot of times the athlete might be upset or want to send out something about themselves on social media. He encouraged them to stop and think. In addition, his big message was, “don’t press send.” Is that always the case?

Last year, a terrible flood wrecked the city of Houston, Texas. Supplies and donations were needed for these victims. Houston Texans’ JJ Watt used the power of social media to raise over $18 million. However, the other end of the spectrum is Jay Feely. He is a former NFL kicker and now CBS analyst. He posted a picture of himself between his daughter and her prom date on Twitter. As a father, there is nothing wrong with coming between your daughter and her date for a picture. There is something wrong with holding a gun while you are doing it. With so many school shootings, it was extremely insensitive. He was posting the picture in reference to the movie Bad Boys II. In one scene, the father and his best friend threatened the daughter’s date with a gun. Feely posted, “Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a great time at prom #BadBoys.” Even though he used the hashtag to reference the movie, it was beyond poor taste. He later went to social media and posted, “The prom picture I posted was obviously intended to be a joke. My Daughter has dated her boyfriend for over a year and they knew I was joking. I take gun safety seriously (the gun was not loaded and had no clip in) and I did not intend to be insensitive to that important issue.” Sorry Feely, but it was a little too late for that. If you want to take the picture, show it to your friends and family and laugh but “don’t press send”.

Maybe you don’t go so far as to post something controversial, but you can fall into the trap of Kevin Durant. The Golden State Warriors’ player liked a comment on Instagram that called Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook “the problem” when the two were teammates with the Thunder. Then came a reporter who posted on Twitter, “Kevin Durant tells me it was a “total accident” that he liked a comment on Instagram about Russell Westbrook. Was just an honest mistake”. So, you were scrolling through all the comments on that post and you “accidentally” hit like. Yeah right Durant!

Another example of social media gone wrong is Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones. He has been working out with Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens. You might say that’s a great thing, especially if you want to get better. He is not, however, with his teammates who have begun offseason workouts. Football, like any team sport, is big on continuity and togetherness. The more time you spend together as a unit, the better off you are going to be. The window is slim to win a Super Bowl for the Falcons so it is imperative to have your players working out together to build a cohesive group. Jones knows this, which is why it was interesting that he would delete all his pictures on Instagram that were related to the team and organization. He purged all the people he was following, as well. Of course, this sent every Falcons fans into a frenzy, even the NFL community. Why on God’s green earth would you do that Jones? One speculation is his recent visit to Alabama, where he played college ball. He was setting an example to the players there of wanting a “fresh start” on social media. Jones said, “At the end of the day, when that social media is gone — you delete social media right now, what you stand for, who are you? Social media ain’t going to make me.” Ok Jones that is a great message and speech. That is a great way to lead by example but you could have just gone “dark” and not posted anything anymore. That is what LeBron James does when the NBA playoffs start. He gets off social media to focus on the task at hand. This would have been more effective than deleting all references to the Falcons and the organization. It is much the same when someone is no longer in a relationship and changes their status to “single” on Facebook. Or, they delete all the pictures they took with their ex. Jones, you know better.

Social media is like the tongue, it can be used to build up or tear down. It is so important to be careful how you use it. Remember to think, and “don’t hit send.”