Social networking sites such as You Tube, Twitter and Facebook have caught the public's attention in a big way over the past couple years, and given the popularity of the new mediums, North Carolina head coach Butch Davis made it a point to present the pitfalls and potential problems they could cause when UNC reported for training camp earlier this month.
"We did a presentation (at the start of camp) a little bit on personal responsibility for electronic media," said Coach Davis. "I think that everybody has seen instances across the country where You Tube, Facebook, all those things, as funny as some of them are, and as good as they are for ways to maybe communicate with your friends and stuff, that it also opens up a Pandora's Box for opportunities for negative things to happen."
"We try to educate them and talk to them about it, as a coaching staff," Davis added. "Myself and a lot of our coaches, I mean, obviously we text when it's legal with the NCAA. We email all the time to recruits. We'll do some video cam conversations when it's allowable during the recruiting process."
"We can't police them and tell them, 'No, you can't have that.' But we can try to talk to them. Understand the ramifications of it," Davis continued. "We're always in the business of trying to educate our football players about a lot of things. Conduct off the campus, down on Franklin Street. Who are your friends? Who are your associations?"
Facebook has seen a tremendous boom in popularity among young people on college and high school campuses over the past year, and several members of the Tar Heels have gotten hooked themselves.
"Yeah, I have a Facebook account," said junior defensive tackle Marvin Austin. "For me, with Facebook it's a way to keep in touch with a lot of my friends from high school, a lot of people who live on the other side of the country that I don't really want to call. It's a great way to basically network and stuff like that."
Fellow juniors Kendric Burney and Greg Little agreed with Austin's assessment of Facebook in terms of social networking.
"I've got a Facebook account, and I'm on it pretty much a lot, but I'm not putting anything crazy up there," said Burney. "Everybody likes to communicate with people, and I like communicating with the fans and hearing what they've got to say. Also I've got a lot of friends that I don't get to talk to as much as I want to, so getting on the computer definitely helps me do all that."
"I have a Facebook (account)," said Little. "I guess I don't take it as necessarily as I should. But I haven't had any problems. Facebook, it's just like a social network to stay in touch with old friends and things like that. That's the way I look at it."
Like Austin, Burney and Little have received a ton of 'friend' requests from Tar Heel fans on Facebook, and while none of them have yet experienced the highs and lows of life on Facebook following a big win or a tough loss, they are all more than willing to accept UNC fans as their friends.
"Every day (I have fan friend requests). Yeah. If they're a fan, I'm accepting them," said Austin. "I actually just got my Facebook account, so I haven't gotten one (a fan request) after a big win, so I'll be surprised to see what happens."
"It's definitely a lot (of fan requests), but I don't mind communicating with fans all across the world," said Burney, 'Because just like little kids, just as I had a dream when I was smaller, they have a dream, so we definitely all need to achieve that dream when we get older."
While Facebook appears to clearly be a popular thing among certain Tar Heels, one junior starter, Quan Sturdivant, decided that there was nothing on there for him personally.
"I just deleted my Facebook. I'm not on any of that stuff anymore," said Sturdivant. "I deleted Facebook and got off it just because I've been on there, and there's nothing on there for me, so I got off it."
While Facebook is something that the UNC coaches want to keep their players educated about, the medium that is particularly disconcerting to the coaches is You Tube, given the ease in which anyone could upload a potentially embarrassing video of a Tar Heel player if they got them into a comprised situation.
"We had this conversation. Literally every single person that owns a cell phone is a potential videographer," said Coach Davis. "I mean, it doesn't matter. Somebody can get you on You Tube, and you can be a You Tube hero in about 20 seconds, you know, if you just do stupid enough, dumb things. You've got to be cautious and careful about who you associate with, where you go, who you hang out with."
"It's a little bit scary and a little bit frightening because someone could just walk up to you, and somebody else could be doing the video and they could do any kind of stupid things, whether it's with alcohol, whether it's hand gestures, and all of a sudden it looks like you're a willing participant, and you could be just standing there," Davis added. "So it's a dangerous thing, and you just have to keep talking to kids about it."
"It's been pretty rough (on some)," said Little about You Tube. "I mean, just kind of don't put yourself in a bad situation. You know right from wrong and what to stay away from, and stuff like that."
While You Tube has been around for a couple of years and Facebook started building popularity in 2008, Twitter is a brand-new medium that allows people to make real-time reports and observations on their Twitter page.
"I've got a Twitter account," said Coach Davis. "Do I use it all the time? No, not very much. But I'm trying to learn to stay current because it's one of the things that you want to be able to communicate with the kids and stuff. "
"I have a Twitter account. I don't 'Tweet' as much as some people, but I've got a Twitter account," said Austin. "Maybe when I just think of something, I'll be like, 'Shoot, I'll just put this on Twitter, you know,' or if I'm going somewhere, I'm hanging out with my buddies or whatever, when I want to say something like 'D-Line Showtime!' or something like that, that's when I usually Tweet."
"With Twitter, to me it's just fun," Austin added. "Like I can go in there and put whatever I'm thinking on my mind on Twitter instead of having to write it on a piece of paper or not say it at all. I think of something cool and I just write it on Twitter and everybody knows, and the people hit me back with like, 'You're a fool man!' or something like that, so it's just fun."
While Austin regularly posts on Twitter and finds the experience fun, he says that he's not keeping an eye on any of his teammates there.
"I'm actually not even following anybody on the team," he said. "I don't know who has a Twitter page, so I might have to go around and find out who has a Twitter page and just send some Tweets or something like that."
While fond of Facebook, Little says he's not sold on Twitter yet.
"Twitter, it's kind of a new thing, so I probably won't get involved with that," he said.
One thing that's evident when talking to Davis is that he and his staff are not going to allow the Twitter thing to get out of hand, which many feel is precisely what has happened in the NFL with players such as Chad Ochocinco claiming that he'll 'Tweet' on the sidelines during games.
Davis says that UNC fans do not have to worry about his players getting distracted in that particular fashion on game days.
"There's a time and a place for everything, and I know that there's all the discussion about guys Twittering on the sidelines during the course of the game with Chad Johnson and stuff," Davis said. "I don't think those kinds of things, clearly that has no place on our football team, you know."