As a bird lover and someone who loved the little yellow bird in the cartoon Sylvester, I am a fan of 'Tweety.' 'Tweety' was always the underdog in the cartoon series. Last year, I started hearing about the 'Tweet' and thought it had something to do with the 'Puddycat' from the cartoon. Yet technology got ahead of me for a nanosecond, as I found a different type of 'Tweet' altogether. It is not a bird per se, rather it is an electronic bird that chirps your information at 140 characters maximum via the internet.
Strahan is a 'Tweet', Shaq is a 'Tweet'; Ochocinco is a 'Tweet', Cromartie is a 'Tweet', as are Aston Kutcher and his wife Demi Moore. Ashton has over one million followers as does his wife, Demi. In this day and age of technology - is it safe to 'Tweet'?
Within this year, the reaction to Twitter as a social networking site has been mixed. Facebook is still the most popular social networking site by far, with 250 million active registered users. MySpace is quickly becoming less and less relevant. Twitter is the newest edition to the social networking scene and it is omnipresent.
It is telling when Chad Ochocinco of the Bengals announced his plan to 'Tweet' during an NFL game, but the NFL ended up prohibiting that idea. Antonio Cromartie of the San Diego Chargers logged into Twitter to send a 'Tweet' about the state of the food in training camp; he did not like the food. It was probably the most expensive 'Tweet' to date; Antonio was fined $2,500 by the Chargers. Cromartie, known as @crimetime31 on Twitter, has since locked down his twitter site to be by invitation only. Shawn Merriman, also of the Chargers, made more seemingly positive comments that he said with a 'wink-wink' about the 'wonderful' food at camp on his twitter page. Shawn got to keep his money. The question becomes when does 'Tweeting' or 'updating one's status' on Facebook become a detriment to the athlete or the organization?
The NFL and other major league organizations utilize Twitter to update the global society on the actions of the various teams at the individual level. In the 2009 NFL Draft, some coaches announced the outcome of first round draft picks before it was officially announced by the league. The Chargers were one of the organizations that utilized Twitter for this purpose. Is there a double standard for using this technology? The Charger's Head Coach, Norv Turner, told the San Diego Tribune that his team is not allowed to use Twitter in the building. Yet, someone in the building was following the 'Tweets' of the players during training camp because Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500.
In a recent conversation with a retired professional athlete, the conversation turned to the issue of privacy and how difficult it was to maintain privacy even after leaving the game several years back. I began to wonder through our conversation how did we come so far that everyone needs to know every time someone goes down to Starbucks to get a coffee. I began to check out the various Twitter.com accounts for some of the athletes in the news.
By going on certain Twitter pages, the general population can generally figure out where a well known individual is at any given time.
An athlete turned actor recently stated on his 'Tweet' that he loved living near the ocean. He has since posted photos, through his 'ubbertwitter' (Blackberry application) of his lovely lady on the top of their home, which happens to have a beach with structures behind him. His next 'Tweet' was about the fact that he loved his vacation site in the Caribbean and actually uploaded the photo from his hotel room showing his vacation location from his 'ubertwitter'. You're on vacation with a beautiful woman and you are playing with your Blackberry? He must not have been worried about the paparazzi snapping the photographs. The next 'Tweet' to mention is that he invited 'everyone' to Starbuck's in Santa Monica for coffee. Imagine if 'everyone' figured out where the Starbucks was - you see he was 'buying'. Oh! Did you learn that he lives not too far from Santa Monica by that 'Tweet'?
Other famous individuals put out their private information for the world to see. Yet, at what cost to privacy? What is the price a 'famous' individual pays for the loss of his or her privacy in this technologically open world of ours through the use of social networking sites such as Twitter.com and Facebook.com?
According to the Boston Herald, a New England Patriots Cheerleader - Caitlin Davis - was fired in October 2008 from her squad because she posted photographs of herself on Facebook posing over a passed-out friend with two swastikas and inappropriate phrases written all over the kid's arms and neck.
In the United Kingdom, Soccer star Michael Chopra, happened to go on his wife's Facebook page, to find that she had changed her status from 'married' to 'single' ending their seven month marriage. This negatively affected his 'brand', as he retaliated in a public forum on his Facebook page, stating in effect that he was 'disconnecting her [phone] number'. Or Rome's midfielder and star soccer athlete, Alberto Aquilani, who in 2008 logged into Facebook and stated he was 'single'. A while later, a message appeared on his Facebook page stating, "No my dear Alberto. You are very much in a relationship with me," wrote his girlfriend, Michela.
During the Olympics in Beijing, on Facebook, a female Aussie hockey player announced that she would like to 'jump on' some of the members of the Spanish men's team. Nikki Hudson, the player in question, ended up publically apologizing for her words and behavior.
As part of the use of social networking are the issues of private messaging other members. Private messages enable users to keep in touch with others without prying eyes. When Gabe Pruitt was a student at USC in 2006, Pruitt wooed a woman named Victoria privately through Facebook private messages. He was a USC basketball star that went on to play for the Boston Celtics. Yet, the moment USC arrived on their rival Berkley's Campus, Victoria appeared in the oddest manner. It turns out that Victoria was a prank played by members of the rival university. The crowd began to pass around transcripts relating to his attempt at the seduction, while chanting Pruitt's phone number and Victoria's name. His team lost that day and his personal performance was at a low. No message you send is private - it can be cut and pasted for the world to see.
The cost of social networking can, at times, be very high. Social networking sites all sound very innocent and fun; let's face it - technology is fun, amazing, and wonderful. The satellites allow us a view of our world that is unique and different. In thinking of the athlete-turned-actor, if an individual utilizes Google Earth they could actually get a satellite photograph of the actor's front door. The military can get real time photographs of activities via satellite. Have you ever wondered what is in your neighbor's yard? With technology individuals now can go to Google Earth and see in a delayed state what is in their neighbor's backyard. There would be a photograph from the past few months that showed exactly what was in that yard. Twitter is just as amazing. If an individual can figure out how to use certain Twitter applications, they can generally pinpoint from what location a person sent a 'Tweet' while using their mobile communication device, by accessing a map that appears with some of the 'Tweets'. Once they find the general location, they can go back to Google Earth and figure out the topography of the area to include all of the hiding places, as they figure out how to run into the person they want to see. A frightening thought; yet, true.
The question is: 'Awe, ain't dat 'Tweet'?' Is it sweet to be able to know everything and anything about someone or is there some point where the 'Tweet' becomes invasive? The fact is that social networking through Twitter and Facebook have their place in the development of an athlete's brand. It is the quality of the information that is posted that makes these sites valuable to brand development. At the same time, the brand that is created can be killed faster than a speeding bullet by a statement made on a social networking site. Simply put, think before you type or you may be tomorrow's headline.