Antisocial networking: Players talk trash on Facebook

Posted: October 14, 2010

Imhotep Charter coach Marc Wilson has instituted a curfew for his football players.

It has nothing to do with what time they get home or go to bed.

Wilson has issued a "Facebook curfew." Starting this season, players may not write on the social-networking site after 11 p.m. the day before a game.

Wilson said the online curfew was aimed at encouraging his players not to stay up late and curtailing Facebook trash talk, which occurs most often the day before a game.

"We've seen it happen before where individuals start an exchange on Facebook, and it leads to something that becomes more physical and realistic," Wilson said.

Facebook trash talk started at the beginning of the season, and its volume increased heavily in the first weeks, Imhotep players said. Coaches and players in Philadelphia think it could become a serious problem.

"All this chatter that's going online, it potentially could lead to a bad incident," Del-Val Charter coach Barry Thomas said.

Imhotep's coaches are Facebook "friends" with most Panthers players, allowing the coaches to monitor what the players do. Wilson still can monitor the activity of players he is not "friends" with, however.

"They have friended someone, who's a friend of someone we are friends with. So the word gets back eventually," he said. "It truly is an impressive network of people."

Wilson says most of the trash talk on Facebook is delivered through status updates and comments posted on those updates. More recently, though, Wilson has learned of players trash-talking via Facebook messages, which are private.

"It's not just in the Public League. I believe it's everywhere," said Damean Riley, a senior at Imhotep. "[Teams] just use it as motivation to get in their heads like a psychological warfare that's going on, on Facebook."

Wilson has had to discipline eight players for misusing Facebook. One was senior Maurice Howard, who made inappropriate remarks on the site.

"I was telling all the haters that we were still No. 1," Howard said of his Facebook comments after his team lost to Del-Val Charter, 30-22, on Sept. 24. "When I was doing it, I wasn't really thinking too much about the repercussions."

Some, though, think the problem is exaggerated.

Bok coach Tom DeFelice said he was unaware of trash talk on Facebook.

"I'm not able to get on Facebook, anyway, because between school and homework and football practice, I don't have enough time to," Bok senior Vincent Jones said.

Bok senior Faison Perry surmised that players at the junior-varsity level probably were the source of trash talk. Still, Bok players do not consider it a major problem.

"It's just competitiveness," Perry said.

According to the Imhotep players, the trash talk worsens when non-football students get involved.

"The football players, we all know, when you talk trash on Facebook, it's basically because of the game," Howard said. "But the students, the people who don't play the game, they really wouldn't understand too much, so that's why they'll take that the wrong way."

Howard and his Imhotep teammates said they have heard of students at other schools writing on Facebook, in reference to the football game, "We're gonna kill y'all."

But, Wilson said, a typical post he has seen says, "I can't wait to beat up on [opponent] tomorrow!' "

One problem with Internet trash talk is that a person's tone is sometimes difficult to understand.

"People say stuff to each other, and people take it differently because they read it on Facebook. They're not saying it to them face-to-face," Bok senior Devin Sanders said.

Del-Val players actually informed their coach, Thomas, about the Facebook trash-talk activity the week before their game against Imhotep.

Thomas said he and his coaching staff do not regulate what his players write on Facebook, because he believes it is not malicious.

Once the playoffs start, Wilson said he believes the Facebook trash talk will only increase.

"We just don't want that associated with our program," Wilson said. "We don't want to be guys that talk a lot of mess. We want to be guys that play well."


Contact Pat Gillespie at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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