Fake Adam Schefter Tweets Offer Valuable Lessons About Twitter, Media Culture

Collin McColloughNFL Deputy EditorMarch 28, 2012

Well, have you?
Well, have you?

You just got Adarn'd!

At the present moment, there are few other four-word combinations that could strike as much fear into the heart of tweet-friendly members of the media.

Adarn Shefter, as known in its second incarnation (the first account, Adarn Schefter, was deleted, presumably after being reported numerous times), is modern media culture's worst nightmare—a moniker that lives to get a rise out of careless social media users scanning their timelines for the latest breaking NFL news. By posing as ESPN's half-man, half-Blackberry, Adarn—mindful of the fact that an "r" and "n" grouped closely together resemble an "m" if you don't pause to investigate—has wreaked havoc on new media journalism.

Even SportsCenter (who later blocked the account) re-tweeted one of his so-called "reports."

Reggie Bush on the trade block. Dwight Freeney released from the Colts. Tim Tebow named the Jets' starting quarterback over Mark Sanchez. Jonathan Vilma suspended eight games for his role in the scandal we still can't term any better than "Bountygate." And per his latest trolling, Eagles trading Asante Samuel to the Lions.

All nonsense, of course. Blatant, unapologetic lies. Some men just want to watch the world burn. Some want to see how many saps—so quick on the Tweetdeck draw—they can get to pull the trigger on a re-tweet, purporting their pranks as fact, as something worth recycling back into the ether of social media.

Let's be honest: Our friend Adarn has no grand intentions of revealing the flaws within digital age journalism nor intentionally giving us cause to reflect upon our social media attitudes, habits and practices. He is a troll; a catalyst, certainly, and a useful one as I'll allow below.

Nevertheless, he's no more inspired or elaborately-plotted than your average junior high ball-tap.

I would guess he's a high school or college student with too much time on his hands, personally. But I don't have to guess. His Facebook chat, posted on Reddit (and since deleted) by a friend, and sprinkled ever so delicately with adolescent acronyms, does most of the guessing for me.

The aim here, though, is not to chastise Adarn. Is this irresponsible? Yes. Is this blatant trolling? Yes. But even I have to admit that there are some humorous elements at play—notably the fact that ESPN's SportsCenter handle so readily picked up his report of Tim Tebow to the Jacksonville Jaguars without stopping to check or confirm.

Ultimately, this says a lot (and not much in a positive light) about contemporary sports media culture, mostly as it pertains to social media.

It is, of course, a breaking news culture. We want our news and we want it fast. Vessels like Twitter, which plug straight into the assortment of screens we stare at on a daily basis, play directly into this mentality. As we've embraced instantaneous news feeds, so too have we become trigger-happy in our acceptance.

Fact-checking, or checking at all—just checking to made sure an "m" is really an "m"—seems to have gone by the wayside. It's been left buried underground in a time capsule as part of journalism past, a third-grade science project collecting layers of sediment.

The ongoing Adarn experiment proves that either we accept tweets, or any other form of instant information, far too easily these days...or we don't even fully understand our own social media practices. That doesn't just apply to journalists, either. That applies to fans, to players, to anyone wielding the power of the "re-tweet" button.

Because when we do re-tweet, when we repackage the information of others, we attach value to that information, and we need to understand that there are consequences resulting. While some may view this as an extension of sourcing in the digital age, it's more than that.

It's lending credence to an idea, it's co-signing or sponsoring the words of others.  

We are, on some level, responsible for what we offer as pertinent information, whether it comes courtesy of our keyboards or the 140 characters of someone we've never even met.

Just today, a San Francisco radio station was fooled by Adarn. 95.7 The Game reported, per a tweet it had seen by Adarn, that the Jets were considering trading Sanchez to the Dolphins.  

To their credit, they did acknowledge the mistake.

But who should we really blame for these occurrences? Some teenager taking a break from Skyrim? If we want to be lazy and ignore the root cause, sure. Go ahead.  

If we really want to take charge, though, and learn some valuable lessons and media practices moving forward, we should pause and reconsider the way in which we not only digest information, but process and repeat or otherwise modify that information.

For whatever reason, a sense of personal responsibility while operating in cyberspace still seems elusive. We don't, as a culture, realize that our credibility, our names, are attached to the items we etch into Internet history.  

Okay, this one actually is hilarious.
Okay, this one actually is hilarious.

It still hasn't dawned upon us that, every day, the Library of Congress archives our stupidity one more Facebook post or tweet or regrettable blog entry at a time, as we choose to attach our identities to information and expect some sort of leeway or buffer simply because we're not signing on a dotted line.

Instead of berating Adarn for trolling, we must change our own media habits to affect any substantive change, anything that results in us avoiding the pitfalls of careless tweets or re-tweets. We must admit that there is something at stake every time we hit the "send" button.  

Because reputation, integrity and credibility do, in fact, matter. They matter for journalists and members of the media, who must negotiate some semblance of trust in the first place to place themselves in a position where society deems them worth listening to, worth absorbing or believing over the ramblings of Joe Sports Fan at the local dive bar.

And they matter for fans, for folks outside of the media, just seeking to participate in the larger conversation.

When you let yourself get Adarn'd, when you pull that trigger a hair too fast without actually reading and considering what you're doing, you announce to the entire world that your word means nothing, that your name means nothing.

You announce your unreliability, and your inability to take just five seconds to get your alphabet in check.

What we write on the Internet matters, even if it feels akin to chucking a pebble into the Grand Canyon. Because somewhere down there, at the bottom, that pebble lands.  

Maybe in a puddle, maybe in a river, but regardless, there are ripple effects. We would do well to remember that before mindlessly hitting buttons and giving Adarn one more item to "LOL" about.