Twitter can be a powerful welcome mat for the harsh real world. Just as prep football super recruit Arik Armstead.
Like a number of top football recruits, Armstead has a thoroughly preposterous amount of Twitter followers. The son of NFL legend Jesse Armstead, Arik Armstead is one of the top-ranked prospects both at his position and among all positions nationwide (feel free to check out how he compares to some of the other big names making their decisions Wednesday at Rivals.com's incredibly comprehensive National Signing Day coverage right here). The younger Armstead complements an overwhelming on-field success with flashes of real personality and occasional humor on Twitter.
Yet, like most top prep football players, Armstead got most of his nearly 5,000 followers because of interest in where he would play college football. So, when the Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove High star finally announced he would take his talents to Oregon, he received a sudden and stunning decrease in followers.
In fact, let Arik tell you himself, via Twitter of course:
Lost 500 followers 2day hehehe
That's right, Armstead lost more than one out of every 10 followers he had gained during the recruiting process just by doing exactly what the followers were most interested in (and perhaps influencing with their own tweets to him): Picking a school.
Perhaps that only makes sense, and perhaps it's all for the best, both for Armstead's future and what he can take away from the experience. Clearly the massive 6-foot-8, 280-pound teen isn't worrying too much about any lost attention or Twitter traffic by those who might have been offended -- or bored -- by his commitment to Oregon.
Yet, at the very least, the incident provides a fascinating window into how Twitter provides direct access and influence on recruits in a way that other social media services haven't in the past. The lack of barriers to access for players who refuse to protect their tweets -- and let's be honest, how many teens actually protect their tweets? -- allows fans access to malleable teenage athletes in a way that hasn't been (and perhaps shouldn't be) possible.
It also creates scenarios where players' fragile egos can be swayed by the rapid fluctuation in their number of followers, a statistic which almost serves as a postmodern status symbol for budding football talents. Luckily, Armstead didn't seem to mind, but who knows if other players are as easily amused by their followers' indifference.
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