Coach John Harbaugh avoids social media like the plague. Here’s why.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has a personal policy when it comes to social media:

He wants no part of it.

He doesn’t have an account and said he never will.

“It’s a death spiral,” he told USA TODAY Sports in a recent interview. “You only get so many days to your life, you know? Like every day we’re granted is a gift, man.  I’m not gonna turn over my days, my well-being, my peace of mind over to social media and all the traps that come with it.”

Harbaugh, 61, spoke about this with USA TODAY Sports recently in the context of a new nonprofit organization he founded called the Harbaugh Coaching Academy. It’s a family legacy project being announced today that aims to boost the coaching profession with lessons and insight from the best in the business.

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But there’s also another feature of this project that appeals to him: He can use the academy website and its related platforms to communicate with the public directly instead of wading into the negative muck that often comes up on Instagram, Facebook or X, formerly Twitter.

He called it an alternate universe

As a digital content enterprise, the Harbaugh Coaching Academy still will use social media channels to promote engagement. It just won’t be John Harbaugh running those social channels. It’ll be a member of his marketing team instead.

And if he wants to make a public comment, he also could convey it through them.

“This is an opportunity now to reach out also in real time, just like if I was gonna do an Instagram post or X thing or whatever,’ said Harbaugh, who won a Super Bowl in 2013 and now has the second-longest tenure among NFL head coaches (16 seasons). “If I had something I want to say like that, I’m going to do it through this in the future.”

Harbaugh reached his conclusion about social media after seeing what it often offers – a cesspool of trolling and anonymous vitriol. He has scrolled through social media posts before, and sometimes certain posts are brought to his attention.

“The social media world to me, it’s like a world that I just haven’t wanted to live there because it’s not a real world,” Harbaugh said. “And you could get sucked into that vortex, you know? The next thing you know it becomes like an alternate universe that I’m not interested in living in. So I’ve kind of made it a point to say that I haven’t had to use it. I’m a pro coach. I’m not a college coach. So with this, this is an opportunity now to reach out also in real time.”

NFL coaches on social media

To his point, an NFL coach doesn’t really “need” to be on social media the way a college coach does. NFL coaches don’t recruit players. College coaches do and use social media to enhance their efforts.

But some NFL head coaches still have developed big followings on social media accounts in large part because of their fame in the NFL. Those social media accounts in turn have given these coaches their own audience with which to engage or share information on their terms.

For example, Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton has more than 420,000 followers on X and uses it to promote his own nonprofit foundation.

By contrast, there also are NFL coaches like Harbaugh who want no part of it, though few have articulated the reason for it quite like him.

“I’m not on social media — thank God,” Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said in 2020.

Harbaugh’s brother Jim, the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, also has nearly two million followers on X but hasn’t posted there since 2020.

‘Smarter, stronger, better’

John Harbaugh’s opinion about social media almost sounds like coaching advice that belongs on his academy website. It also tracks with other advice from mental health experts who cite research linking social media use with isolation, anxiety and depression among young adults and children.

Then there’s that time in 2022 when the Ravens coach had a talk with his star quarterback, Lamar Jackson, about his own social media flare-up. It happened when Jackson made a profane remark on X, in response to a critical remark about him there after a 28-27 loss to Jacksonville. Harbaugh said then that he begs “guys not to get into the Twitter world right after the game, especially after a loss.”

Jackson deleted the post.

“It’s just not a place where I need to be,” John Harbaugh said of social media in general. “I don’t really need to know what like every single person is thinking about every single thing. If there are things I want to read that are gonna be edifying and uplifting and are gonna make me smarter, stronger, better − I want to choose to read those things.”

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

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