The Toxicity of Social Media in Sports

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So, for one of my classes, I had to write a speech. I could pick any topic, and the one I choose was about toxicity in social media in sports. It’s a topic that clearly is important to me and a lot of you reading this, so I figured I would post it to the site. I included a little about the history of the CBTS team, where we came from, and why we are how we are today. Enjoy!

The Toxicity of Social Media in Sports

My name is Jonathan, and I’d like to speak about an issue that hits home for me. How many people in here are sports fans? Now, those of you who have your hands raised, who uses social media as a somewhat important part of their fan experience? I would think that almost every one of you would. Anybody who goes through social media, whether it’s about sports, politics, or just about anything else, you probably know what I mean when I say that it can be toxic. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it seems as if people don’t know how to respectfully disagree about things.

For some background, here is how this topic came to me and how it plays a role in my life today. For about two or three years, I have been writing about hockey, mainly the Carolina Hurricanes. Before I started writing about hockey, I was just a teenager with a love for the Hurricanes. I created a Twitter account, and at that time I made some serious efforts to engage with the fan base and help grow my love for the team and the sport. In the beginning, it was amazing. I loved what we call “Canes Twitter.” It was a great community of people who shared a love and passion for the Hurricanes.

As I started to fall more in love with the team, my urge to start writing got stronger. I remember it like it was yesterday. I would use the notes app on my phone, type up my thoughts, and post a screenshot or turn it into a thread on Twitter. After a lot of searching for avenue to write, I finally found a home. This home was called Canes Chatter. A guy, who seemed extremely nice at first, reached out to me and asked me if I would like to be a part of a new blogging site, Canes Chatter. At first, it was a cool experience. I finally had an avenue to put my thoughts into articles, and then share them to Twitter. Eventually, the site was up to five writers including myself. But, as time went on, Chris, who was the creator of the site, took a turn for the worse. The Hurricanes haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, so frustrations have clearly been apparent for some time now. But Chris took it to another level. Anybody who disagreed with him, he was very rude and dismissive to them. It got to the point to where I wasn’t comfortable being a part of his team anymore. I mentioned my concerns to the rest of the team, they agreed, and we all decided to leave Canes Chatter.

While you would probably think that the story ends there, it doesn’t come close. After we left, Chris got EVEN WORSE. He began harassing us on Twitter. His rude attitude turned into hostility towards anybody who was optimistic. Eventually, those of us who left Canes Chatter decided to team up again and built a brand-new blogging site, called Calm Before The Storm. What was our goal? To bring optimism to a fanbase that has seen continued struggles for as long as we can remember. As our new site continued to grow, guess what happened? Chris got worse. How the hell could that be possible? Well, his new goal began to bring our new, optimistic site down. You could pretty much count on at least one tweet about us a day. “You should join the delusional, optimistic Canes writers at CBTS.” Damn. “The Canes can have their jerseys looking like the goodwill ones the staff at CBTS wear, and people would still buy it.” Ouch. I could keep going, but a lot of the other tweets have been taken down by Twitter. Yeah. That bad.

By this point, my love for the Hurricanes and my love for interacting with a once wonderful group of people on Canes Twitter had become more of a hassle than anything. Eventually, I temporarily deleted my Twitter account because I couldn’t take it anymore. Chris was far from the only problem, though. Negativity continued to flow throughout the fanbase. I get it. The team hasn’t been good, people are going to be mad. But, when things get to the point to where a teenager like myself who just want to have fun and talk about the thing I love has to stop doing so, it’s gone too far. And it continues to go too far every day.

When I started this, you were probably expecting it to be more about relations between fanbases, rather than within a single one. I could go just as long about that. If you don’t like the same team as someone else, you don’t matter to them in today’s world. Hell, some professional (and even collegiate) athletes receive death threats from opposing fans just because they play for a rival team. Are you kidding me?

I want everyone to pull up a form of social media, preferably Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Now, go to a page like ESPN and find a post about a popular player. I guarantee if you look a little bit, you won’t go far before finding a tweet about it that crosses the line. A good example of this is Le’Veon Bell. As you might know, he has held out this year for a new contract instead of playing on the franchise tag. Opinions on this matter aside, Bell made that choice because he feels as if it is the best one for him and his career. I came across two tweets recently. One read “I hope leveon bell slips in a Taco Bell and tears his ACL.” The other read “I hate wishing harm on others but dammit I hope Le’Veon Bell tears his ACL on the first play of next pre season.” Um, I think you contradicted yourself a little bit there buddy.

I could literally go on and on and on with different examples of stuff like this. But we all get the point. Social media isn’t a fun thing anymore for me. It is a toxic place with negativity and hostility. But I still use it and try to be as optimistic as possible. One of my friends who is part of the Calm Before The Storm team has a twitter name of “OverlyOptimisticCaniac.” That is what we need.

I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I’m not here to tell you how to tweet. But I am here to tell you that the state of social media, especially in sports, is not okay. At all. Not for the fans. Not for the athletes. Not for anybody. This issue will never fully go away. But we can all do our part to be a part of what fixes it. If you see a tweet and it crosses a line, call it out or report it to the website. All I know is that I want to see a change. I want to go a day without seeing something that crosses a line. I don’t want people to have to temporarily delete their own twitter account because we couldn’t take it anymore. It’s not fair to any of us. And it’s not okay, and never will be.

One last note: Please remember that the people who run social media accounts aren’t players or General Managers. They are just men and women like the rest of us who run an account.

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