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Slimantics: Self-incrimination through social media

 

Slim Smith

 

 

Be careful what you put on social media, what you choose to keep a record of, what kind of information is vulnerable and therefore should be carefully protected from the ruinous reach of hackers. 

 

Yet for many people, particularly Millennials and Generation Z (born after 1990), the message does not seem to be having much of an effect. 

 

It often seems there is nothing too personal, too embarrassing, too potentially damaging to record for posterity on any number of platforms, from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. 

 

Maybe folks just need a better example of the dangers. 

 

If so, there is likely no better cautionary tale than that of Laremy Tunsil, whose social media indiscretions played out in stunning fashion on national television in a real-time meltdown that is likely to have cost him $8 million. 

 

It's hard to imagine this story has escaped anyone's attention, not just during Thursday's ESPN-televised NFL Draft, where the meltdown played out, but on news channels, too. All three major networks carried the story during their evening news broadcast Friday. 

 

Briefly, then, here is what happened. 

 

Tunsil, an All-American at Ole Miss went into this week's NFL draft as the top offensive lineman available. In fact, in the months before the draft, he was considered by many to be the top prospect in the entire draft. By Thursday afternoon, it was assumed he would be taken with one of the top six picks. Generally, the sooner you are picked, the more money you make, based on the NFL's rookie pay-scale. So Thursday figured to be a very, very good day for Tunsil. 

 

Then, shortly before the draft commenced, a video hacked from the player's Twitter account, showed Tunsil wearing a gas mask attached to a bong, presumably smoking pot. 

 

Suddenly, his stock went up in smoke, you might say, as he waited as two other offensive tackles were chosen ahead of him. By the time, his name was called by the Miami Dolphins as the 13th player, Tunsil had lost $8 million -- the difference between what he would have been paid as the sixth pick and where he was ultimately chosen. 

 

As if that weren't bad enough, even as the draft was being held, another hacked account -- from Tunsil's Instagram account -- apparently showed a text-mail exchange between the player and an Ole Miss assistant athletic director suggesting that the player was receiving cash from the Ole Miss coaching staff, which is, of course, a major violation of NCAA rules. 

 

While those texts aren't likely to do much damage to Tunsil, who is now an NFL player and need not fear reprisal from the NCAA, it carries ominous implications for the Ole Miss football program, already subject to an NCAA investigation surrounding the recruitment and college career of Tunsil, who was held out of the first seven games last season as a precaution while the NCAA continued its probe. 

 

Whether or not these pay-off allegations were already known to the NCAA is not clear. But certainly, they bring the investigation in the public eye and, no doubt, puts the Ole Miss program in a very embarrassing spot. If the reports are proven true --and Tunsil admitted that he did, indeed, take cash from coaches during his brief post-draft press conference -- Ole Miss could face some devastating consequences. 

 

While no one would reasonably argue that Tunsil's conduct is OK -- smoking pot is still illegal and taking cash is a serious breach of the rules - the broader message is this: If you are doing something that is illegal, immoral, embarrassing, questionable, foolish, it's probably a really good idea not to make a video of it. And if you are going to break the rules, keeping a written record of it on your phone is simply not smart. 

 

Of course, those warnings have been circulating almost since social media emerged. Yet, for some reason, the message simply hasn't taken. 

 

So, again, we remind you: Be careful what you commit to social media. 

 

There are many reasons for this. 

 

Thursday, we saw about eight million of them.

 

Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is ssmith@cdispatch.com.

 

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