I first read the story on Flotrack that Villanova University has asked student athletes to “friend” a program called Varsity Monitor so they can monitor the athlete’s social media accounts. As you can imagine, this has sparked some very impassioned comments on the Flotrack website. Athletes are understandably unwilling to just friend a program so their school can monitor their accounts.
Over 100 Schools Already Monitor Social Media Accounts
It’s important to first know this isn’t the first university to be monitoring athletes’ social media accounts. Mississippi State has been monitoring athletes on Facebook and Twitter for over three years, and there are 100+ universities currently monitoring social media in one way or another.
Despite what athletes think, this is not a process where people look over all of your pictures and posts and know everything that you are doing. According to Udiligence, one of the top monitoring programs for universities, they work off a list of “red flag” keywords that when your account has a post that includes one of these keywords, they are alerted and can choose to take action from there or not. In addition, these programs monitor the general social sphere for words of interest. For example, if a post includes the words “ACC basketball players,” a school could be alerted to check that post in case it includes anything they might be responsible for. At the end of the day, if you don’t do anything that might get you or the university in trouble, then you will never know you are being monitored.
The NCAA Wants Schools to Monitor Social Media Accounts
Universities did not wake up one day and decide they wanted to monitor athletes’ social media accounts. The NCAA mandates that universities monitor their athletes’ social media. Never was this made more famous than when the NCAA penalized UNC for failure to monitor social media. As a student athlete, you have to understand that universities are liable for what their athletes do online.
It might be an uncomfortable reality, but the facts are thousands of companies have privilege to your “private” behavior on Facebook or any other social media account. As a company, we are allowed to send ads to you based on the information you give to Facebook (if you don’t believe me, change your relationship status to married and look at the ads that appear on your Facebook page).
My advice for current and future student athletes is, get used to it. Until the rules are changed by the NCAA, your universities and their millions of dollars are going to need to know what you are doing online.