I think it’s quite clear that in the modern day and age, there is no escaping from the opinions of strangers. People have the ability to type, message, dm, tweet, YouTube, Instagram and more, all from the comforts of their own home. When it’s good, it can be wonderful. Writing fan letters in the hope your sporting hero would see it, or hanging around after matches just to get a glimpse, is mostly a thing of the past. You can now DM players of your favourite team to tell them how amazing you think they are, how well they played that game at the weekend, and everyone can get a kick out of that. However, it can also be used to channel aggression, frustration and negativity.
In recent years, the rise in levels of abuse the players receive from pitchside, has become increasingly evident; taunts, jibes, criticism, racism, comments about their families, the way they look, and worse. So, what effect has social media had on these players? It used to be, leaving the pitch you could leave the abuse, but what happens when you can be reached all the time?
I spoke with Burnley striker, Chris Wood for his thoughts on it all
“Social media is great in some ways, and not in others, but all of it is dependent on the person. I think it’s a good way of pushing yourself and pushing a business but it’s not reality, it’s not the real world. Most of the things that people say on social media they’d never say to your face, and it is a personal choice if you want to go looking for what people have to say. In a day, you can see ninety-nine good comments, and one bad, and it’s the one bad one you focus on. I protect myself on my Instagram by turning off comments from people I don’t know, and all the messages from them go into another folder so I don’t even have to pay attention to it.
I know that the opinions of my family, friends and teammates are what matter to me; the rest of it is irrelevant. Like Joe blogs on the street who wants to tell me I’m a sh*t player, when he’s never played a game of professional football in his life. But I had to go through my own bad times to realise what I did and didn’t need to surround myself with. I think it can be more damaging for the younger players who haven’t learned yet, but everyone discovers their best ways to cope. Self-ridicule will always be louder than anything else anyone has to say. As long as I can know I’ve done my best, that’s enough.”
Wise words and advice we can all pay attention to. This won’t just be ‘reality’ to footballers, but for sportsmen and women across the board that put themselves ‘out there’ in the public eye. Everyone is doing their best, if your team has an “off day” or lose, of course you’re allowed to be disappointed, but just think, these athletes are probably going to be feeling worse than you. Be kind, always.