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NWA Democrat-Gazette Editorial: Pittman, Boozman coaching up student-athletes

Don’t let naysayers on social media get inside your helmets

Oct 10 2023

With Arkansas' loss to Ole Miss Saturday and the season's overall 2-4 record, the folks who use social media to channel their inner Jim Rome or Stephen A. Smith, usually with much less wit or insight, no doubt felt reenergized. It's not the losses, some say, so much as the ways the team manages to lose. If only Hunter Yurachek would consider these internet-enabled commentators for head coach, all would be right in Hogland.

It's college sports, though. It's where people feel comfortable having and venting their feelings because not terribly much is at risk. It's not politics or international relations. Nobody's dying on the gridiron. These games and opinions from would-be coaches are a dime a dozen.

We do credit Coach Sam Pittman for his earnest concerns for the young men he's recruited, some of them just 18. After this stretch of losing got started against BYU, Pittman deleted his X (formerly Twitter) account and worried aloud about the mental stress players experience from the venom they see on social media. It's a fair concern. Young people too often get the mistaken idea that social media comments reflect reality. They do not. Instead, many of the comments there almost no one would say to a player's face. And they're amplified as "fans" pile on.

It's counterproductive to mental health, which is critically important to every college student.

Former Razorback John Boozman, now a U.S. senator, sees it as enough of an issue that he's co-sponsored legislation to make grants available for universities to deliver mental health programming for athletes, such as peer-to-peer counseling, crisis lines and campuswide outreach addressing the stigma of seeking mental health services. Many athletes are hesitant to seek help because of the way it may be viewed by others.

We won't pretend expanding an existing grant program will salve all the wounds to the psyche social media helps to inflict, but it's critically important that more young people -- and people generally -- understand that mental illness can afflict anyone at anytime.

Social media is not a place to go for sustenance or validation, and yet it's addictive qualities draw people in again and again. It's a technological version of smoking, a habit that delivers a momentary high, but ultimately proves unhealthy. Social media eventually takes a toll.

It's far better to spend time with and listen to people who demonstrate their concern than to rely on the amplified rants of strangers.

To read the full article in the NW Arkansas Democrat-Gazette click here.