How Twitter is taking over all of our lives

It’s crazy how the times have changed. And yes, I realize that I’m saying this as a 33-year old. I remember when I was young only my grandparents started conversations like that.

When I was in high school, I was just hoping a guy would ask me to prom. Now, guys are coming up with elaborate “prom proposals.” One athlete in the area was asked to homecoming by a guy who had a bunch of his friends hold up signs asking if she would go to homecoming with him. That kind of thing didn’t exist in 1999.

Then of course there are the every day things that each generation is baffled by. Cell phones keep getting smarter, televisions keep becoming more difficult and gaming systems compared to the original Nintendo are baffling.

But it’s true, the times they are a changin’. And it’s even more true in the crazy world that we call sports journalism.

Never did I think when I began my career in the Tribune sports department in 2006 that I would almost be stalking high school athletes on social media to know where they are going to continue their athletic careers collegiately. Or that I would be having conversations with people that I only know their names because of an @ symbol and an abbreviated name.

‘Tis the Twitter world these days.

And it’s not just sports reporters who have to follow every tweet of every athlete. For fans, Twitter has become a way to communicate with athletes that “real” people have never met – and sometimes it can be taken a bit far.

For example, a few weeks ago, Hubbard standout running back L.J. Scott had a decision to make – and for local media it was bigger than any decision that LeBron James would be making around the same time. The four-star running back had a choice to make on where he was going to school – and it was down to Ohio State and Michigan State. Alabama had been in the mix, but it was really between the two Big-Ten powers.

We knew the decision was coming soon. So, during the second week of July, part of Tribune reporter Matt Wagner’s duties that week were “stalk L.J.’s Twitter.” I literally wrote that on his schedule. Now, I didn’t mean stalk like be one step away from a restraining order, but Matt’s duties were to be on the lookout for any sort of announcement that L.J. would be making his collegiate choice. Because, like many kids these days, he made his announcement on the social media site.

But while Matt was religiously checking the timeline of the now-Michigan State bound running back, he noticed something – both fans of the green and white as well as the scarlet and grey were doing everything in their power to sway the sixth rated running back in the country to come play for their schools.

One Ohio State hopeful tweeted at him: “Buckeye Nation is needing you man! Sending you some more OSU vibes! Join the Elite 15, you won’t be disappointed! OH-IO.” Not only did he take the time out of his day to reach out to Scott, he did it at 6:49 a.m. If I’m ever up at 6:49 a.m. I have much better things to do than tweet a 17-year old kid that I don’t know in person.

But Michigan State faithful were getting their two cents in as well. One that stood out was: “on 4th and 2 with game on line, we’re giving the ball to our running back, not the QB! Something to think about! #GoGreen”

This is the life of a recruit in the 2010’s. (Disclaimer, I don’t know if the 2010s is a thing.) For media outlets, it’s now a part of our jobs to monitor the Twitter accounts of every high-profile athlete in our area. For fans, they are tweeting or interacting with these kids like they know them personally. And for coaches and NCAA, they are making sure that each athlete is watching what they are putting out there. Because once it’s in the social media universe, it can’t be taken back.

If this is happening in 2014, imagine what things will be like in 2024. Twitter might be a thing that we tell our kids about much like mixed tapes/CDs, dial-up internet and cell phones that you couldn’t receive pictures with.

But while it’s still 2014, and if you’re on Twitter, follow me @DanaSulonenTrib or the Tribune Sports crew @TribChronSports. Or if you’re still making mixed tapes, calling people on a flip phone or even land line, keeping reading the Tribune Chronicle.