Twitter has helped bridge the gap between athletic celebrities and their fans, but not every athlete has embraced the the social media service. The list of those who have joined Twitter only to delete their accounts afterward include Knicks star forward Carmelo Anthony (after allegedly tweeting a reward to anyone would beat up a woman named Kat Stacks). Anthony, as is often the case in these types of instances, later claimed he was hacked. Lakers star Kobe Bryant also made a quick appearance on the social media site, creating a profile that accumulated 35,000 followers in just a few hours, and then deleted the account.
Mets catcher Josh Thole counts himself among those that joined -- and quickly quit the service. He joined early in 2011 and left Twitter that May after being harassed during a slump. Thole said he didn't mind the criticism of his game, but Twitter became too much when people started tweeting negatively about his family. "I've got no problem being ridiculed myself but when you start personally attacking my family, that's too much for me," Thole said. "At that point, it's not worth it."
Some athletes enjoy engaging with followers and Twitter can be a great platform for self-promotion and maintaining a good reputation. Social media also allows fans to feel close to athletes, offering insights into the day-to-day routine of athletes and even an outlet for conversation.
But the accessibility to athletes can bring out the worst in some fans. Pseudo-anonymity allows people to say inappropriate things without any repercussions. Thole says that line gets crossed too often. "It's easy to ridicule people," Thole said. "I don't have a problem with the bullying or the negative feedback. But at some point, enough is enough. There's still a human element involved in this."
Thole acknowledges that the athlete-Twitter relationship is still undefined. "From [an athlete's] standpoint, I think [Twitter] is a great tool," Thole said. "It's a great way to interact with the fans, and it's a great marketing tool for the team, a player and their brand... I don't know if it's a fad, I don't know if it'll go away� I'm not sure I see that ever happening."
There's no question that Twitter can promote an athlete or his her team, but when Twitter becomes an impediment for the athlete or the game, according to Thole, a re-evaluation becomes necessary.
"This game goes on very well without [social media]," Thole said. "It gets in the way of what the ultimate goal is. It's good to market the team and yourself but at the end of the day, you have to go out there and play baseball. That's your job."