The Suburbanite
  • Jackson players found voice, community through Twitter

  • When Scott D. Studer, a former basketball coach at Jackson High School, was arrested for planting videocameras in the boys locker room, players took to Twitter to discuss their outrage and confusion.

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  • Embarrassed, angry and confused, Jackson High School basketball players needed their teammates more than anything. As news broke that their coach, Scott D. Studer, allegedly had violated their trust and privacy, the boys felt the immediate need to connect with the people who understood exactly how they felt.
    So they turned to Twitter.
    “In the moment, they turned to their ‘community,’ and they could because they had their devices on their hip or in their pocket,” said Erin Hollenbaugh, a Kent State University Stark Campus assistant professor of communication studies who specializes in the study of social media. “Our emotions drive us to disclose and share information about ourselves, and that’s what happened here.”
    On Wednesday, news broke that Studer, a former freshman and varsity assistant coach, allegedly had placed video cameras in the boys locker room, capturing images of the boys as they showered. Twitter captured in real-time what the basketball players were thinking and feeling as they learned what was believed to have happened.
    “Can’t even explain how disgusted I am at the moment,” one player tweeted. “I want to puke”
    “The possibility that my friends and I could be on those videos make me sick to my stomach,” another player tweeted. “Dont even know what to think”
    Using Twitter to immediately express their thoughts and connect to the people they most needed shows the raw power of the social media platform.
    “Social media replicates a community,” Hollenbaugh said. “ … In times like these, we turn to our community for a sense of support. It’s how we cope with things, by talking things out with the people who understand, and it can be healthy to turn to social media for those kinds of reasons.”
    Dr. Laura Young, trauma team leader with Child and Adolescent Behavior Health, believes there are benefits to using Twitter as a way of sorting through emotions associated with a traumatic event.
    “It can be a healthy outlet for them if it is used in a healthy way,” Young said. “It will allow them to feel like they are heard and supported and that there are people who believe them and don’t blame them.”
    Some of the most powerful tweets from the players were those personally addressing Studer.
    In a series of tweets that appear to be directed to the former coach, one player wrote, “You were like a dad to me. And I will never be able to look at you the same. … he told me not to trust anyone. He was right … can’t think straight right now.”
    Another player appears to address Studer by tweeting, “This will affect us all for the rest of our lives #thankscoach #thoughticouldtrustyou.”
    Hollenbaugh was particularly struck by how open and honest the boys seemed to be, especially in those instances. Heads spinning, they allowed their internal thoughts to spill onto their Twitter feed — a place that felt safe.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The medium takes away your visual presence and that releases you to share things you might otherwise feel restricted to share,” Hollenbaugh said. “On Twitter, you’ll often see people opening up and sharing feelings like they would to a trusted friend, counselor, family member or clergy member.”
    Twitter, however, is anything but private. Hollenbaugh noted that when it comes to social media paradigms no longer apply. Social paradigms often prevent boys from sharing their emotions or their feelings publicly, but through the public forum of Twitter, they felt safe doing just that.
    “That’s an interesting dynamic,” Hollenbaugh said, “that the Internet is an especially safe place for boys to open up or even say things they may not be comfortable talking about with their friends.”
    Through Twitter, the players certainly found support from teammates, friends and acquaintances. But the platform also exposed them to cruelty. While some Twitter users made jokes about the situation, one made a fake Twitter account for Studer and mocked the students and the situation. It’s unknown what was tweeted from the phony account as it was deleted a short time later, but it drew the ire of some of the basketball players.
    “Social media can be a two-sided thing,” Young said. “We know bullying and social media go hand-in-hand. Someone less psychologically minded may use social media to bully (the players) and make fun of them. There is no way to predict what would happen there, so it’s better, I think, for them to also find support outside of social media.”
    Hollenbaugh reminded all social media users to think before they post and take into account the feelings and emotions of other users.
    “For those from other teams or districts or communities,” Hollenbaugh said, “they have to understand that there are real people on the other side of those screens and those people are affected by the things that are said.”

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