NEW YORK—With the near-ubiquity of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, more athletes than ever have been able to confirm every widely believed stereotype concerning their arrogance, lack of perspective, and generally inflated sense of self-importance, sources who study online consumer behavior reported this week.
"From Vikings running back Adrian Peterson using Twitter as a platform for illiterate rants on America's lack of Christian morals to Deion Sanders live-tweeting a domestic disturbance that led to his wife being arrested in front of his sons, we're seeing athletes take self-involvement to a whole new level," said Lindsay Fordham, director of social networking surveys at the The Media Audit "Athletes given access to today's powerful, flexible personal media tools are really putting themselves on display like never before."
"Basically, once you add in the sexual misadventures, the $10,000 bar bills, and the homophobic slurs leveled at their rivals, social media is confirming every terrible belief the general public has ever held about athletes," Fordham added.
Perhaps the most visible of all non-stereotype-shattering athletes is Chad Ochocinco, the current free agent wide receiver whose stints with the Bengals and Patriots were punctuated by his constant Twitter use. From 2009 to 2012, Ochocinco gained attention and disgust by tweeting the situation on the sidelines of games-in-progress, during the State of the Union address, several times on the quantity and brand-name of his girlfriend's birth control pills, that his wallet had been stolen and subsequently found, at least once for each of the 15 passes he caught during the 2011-2012 season, that he had no intention of curtailing his Twitter use despite being asked to by Patriots officials, and, on Thursday, that he had been cut from the Patriots.
"Chad grasped the power of social media early on," Pete Prisco of CBS Sports said. "He recognized it as a way to tell people all about Chad Ochocinco, day in and day out, during the season and the offseason, on the toilet, at the strip club, everywhere. But he was by no means the only athlete to realize its potential. Jose Canseco, Michael Beasley, almost any NHL player—you name it, they're making their entire profession look like wet-brained goons online."
According to figures from the Nielsen Co., in the past month alone professional athletes in the four major sports have used Twitter and Facebook to post more than 1,000 messages concerning expenditures on personal entertainment that exceed the nation's average annual household income; more than 200 poorly informed opinions on politics, religion, or current events; and nearly 100 expressions of apathy on losing crucial games or being eliminated from the playoffs.
Also posted were roughly 5,000 retellings of extremely mundane personal matters such as breakfast contents, video game triumphs against friends or family members, unusually late wake-up times, unintelligible statements that are thought to describe sexual conquests or employ personal pet phrases the athlete in question does not realize are not universal, and reposts and retweets of other athletes such as Chad Ochocinco and Adrian Peterson.
"The strange thing is, of course, that the sort of behavior we claim to hate in athletes' social media behavior doesn't differ significantly from the behavior of the average Twitter or Facebook user—self-centered stuff that people only believe to be important because it happened to them," Fordham said. "Plus, there are literally hundreds of athletes who have been besieged by abuse, taunts, and even threats on their pages and feeds. Sports fans, just like athletes, feel alternately entitled and betrayed by the world at large when things don't go their way, and they don't really behave any better than athletes when it comes down to it."
"I suppose you could say social media has shown us that athletes really aren't much different from the rest of us when you get right down to it," she added. "And frankly, that's disgusting."