CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Over the past 12 months, the Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics has worked with internal and external stakeholders to combat an alarming trend of social media harassment targeting intercollegiate student-athletes and coaches. Today, the department is launching “I Matter”, a campaign to encourage all social media users to change their tone and tenor on social media.
“Bullying, trolling and abuse on social media has a very real mental impact on student-athletes and coaches,” the athletic director said. Josh Whitman noted. “Today’s student-athletes are social media natives; they grew up using the platforms. They consume what is written and said about them, often minutes after a competition ends. We have seen a dramatic increase in the mental health needs of our student-athletes in recent years, largely due to an increase in pointed and personal attacks on social media.
“The purpose of this campaign is to remind fans that student-athletes are someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister or friend,” Whitman continued. “In the competitive arena, they can sometimes seem larger than life, but when the lights go out, it’s always young people sorting through the usual complexities of early adulthood, an experience rendered infinitely more difficult by the spotlight in which they thrive and If we all stick together, hold each other accountable, and make the well-being of these young adults a priority, we can bring about real change in the way people interact with each other. with each other on social media.”
The goal of the “I Matter” campaign is to target hate speech and reduce the amount of toxic speech that exists in the social media community. It creates a platform for inclusivity within our Illini community regardless of gender, race, religion, national origin, disability, or differences in sexual orientation.
Research indicates that 40% of athletes between the ages of 18 and 21 experience negative harassment on social media. This social media anti-harassment campaign aims to raise behavioral awareness and raise the bar for civility on social media. Here are different ways to participate in this campaign:
- Amplify the voice of Illini student-athletes and coaches on anti-social media harassment by reposting social media content which can be found on Instagram and Twitter here: @IlliniAthletics
- Report harassment on social media by tagging @Illini_Matter
- Use the hashtag #IMatter and share with us why you support this campaign
- Participate in the next education in civility on social networks published by @IlliniAthletics
Reporting harassment on social media
If you come across any social media content that may upset or appear to harass student-athletes at Fighting Illini or those at other schools, please report it to the respective social media platform: