Social Media Needs to Change, But It Won’t

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Those who are aware of my written work will know I like to make articles light hearted, fun and something to escape the mould of most of football related written content available across the internet and other sources. 

This piece, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, is a serious one. This is a piece I’ve wanted to write for a few weeks and after having some time off last week I was able to reflect and think about things a little bit more.

I’ve a few areas within the topic I want to cover but as I write it I may come out of this with more questions than answers. You might too. 

Social Media Needs To Change

Let’s not sugar coat this anymore. Social media can be one of the best tools available to us when used correctly and on the flip side, it can also be one of the fucking worst. It was once described to me as a “narcissistic echo chamber” and I’ve never let that escape my mind.

Time and time again we are exposed to the nastiness which exists in society, the amount of angry people who opt to hide behind screens and continue to bring others down with them. And when I say time and time again, I mean everyday. Every hour, every minute, every second of every day someone in the world chooses to react to something which they don’t like and seek to make themselves feel better. At least I think that’s how it works. I can’t quite figure it out in my head. 

Surely if you see something you don’t like, something you aren’t a fan of, the easiest and least stressful thing is to just move on with your life? I reached out to someone a few weeks back who called people out on his Instagram story who received abuse from several people just because ten years ago maybe more, they didn’t think he was very good at football. Quite rightly, he said stop following him. I thought it was admirable and refreshing. 

I made my views clear with him. “I’m not a fan of Coronation Street, but I don’t Tweet Norris giving him shit.” – Now while not the best example to use, the point remains the same. How do people have the energy, the mindset and the sad outlook on life to have that sort of reaction?

Not a fan of something, move on. Don’t like that TV show? Don’t watch it. Not a fan of this article? Perfectly fine. Go off it, do something with your life which you enjoy, which makes you happy and do it without bringing other people down.

This isn’t to say, let’s cut out all negative things. That would be stupid. We all like feedback, we all need it. Positive and negative. This is where language is so important, particularly in social media and it appears a lot of people haven’t got to grips with this. Now I appreciate I won’t change the world with this article, but stick with me.

There are so many examples where language can be a huge difference in how people can come across, how you strike a debate or conversation with someone and sadly seeing as it’s called social media it appears like a lot of people don’t want to have a conversation nor be fucking social.

“fucking shite that” why not try “I don’t agree with your opinion, what about this”

Not difficult is it?

Apparently it is.

Telling football players they are shit in a direct response to a Tweet of theirs. A ‘get out my club’ to someone who is just trying to enjoy their day. Do me a favour. Where is the need? What is the gain? Where is the sense of achievement? Is that really the best use of your time? Is that what you would say to them in the street?

The growth of technology and social media in the past 10 years has been astronomical. New platforms are being created and we as humans are adapting as to how we use them. But has the education of use of social media grown as the same rate as social media? Or have we all been left to our own devices (pun not intended) to work this shit out by ourselves? Of course we have, we’re human. It feels like a given that you’d use a platform to reflect you, your personality and engage with those that have similar interests.

That’s not the case for everyone. Some are bots, some are trolls, some are kids and some people with genuinely nothing better to do with their lives and I cannot fathom why. If it’s for likes, a feel good factor or something of that ilk then I seriously worry for mankind.

Has a culture developed within schools and society in which trolling is ‘cool’? See how many likes you can get from being abusive? Are kids being educated properly in how to use it by parents, teachers and peers? Have they been made aware of repercussions? Are there any repercussions to scare them off??

Social media was a tool in my mind which was invented to bring the world, society and humans closer together. Day by day it’s getting worse. A place for people to vent, Twitter. A place for people to showcase how great their life is, despite it not being, Instagram. A place to boast about work or make up job titles, LinkedIn. Social battleships; finding out people you went to school with have some wild opinions, unfriend, Facebook.

It’s tiring. Mentally draining. And it’s damn right fucking sad.

I understand things aren’t black and white. You should stand up for the things you believe in and we all have a right to free speech, but that shouldn’t be judged on our individual moral compass. 

There’s a line, a line that isn’t marked out for some, a line that is crossed each and every day without any repercussions. Without accountability. 

All around the world there are preaches and practices for mental health, how we need to look out for friends, family and even those we don’t know. We all applaud when we see reactions and support to the ones like we did after the tragic death of Caroline Flack and then are shocked when something similar happens, or totally neglect it when something similar happens to someone who isn’t a celebrity. It’s too late. All be it a genuinely compassionate response from some but also plays into the ‘look at me, I’m seen to be caring’ for others. 

Hashtags will trend, there will be some sort of campaign which will last a few hours, if you’re lucky, a few days. Then slowly but surely we descend back into the negative abyss of social media. We’ve come to accept this as the norm. How the fuck did that happen?!

How as a society have we become immune to racial, homophobic, transgender, fat shaming bullying for all to see? How have social media companies let this happen? WHY? How is it possible for people through no fault of their own, for simply wanting to enjoy the positives aspects of social media to be racially abused and for nothing to happen? How do you explain to someone who is receiving this abuse that if they report it, it may get dealt with, but hang on a second, someone has just posted a 3 second clip of a Premier League football game and we need to deal with that first. Let’s get that account suspended first, can’t be having that.

IT’S FUCKING BACKWARDS…

Before I move onto the next point let me say this. Online banter does not fucking exist. ‘Banter’ exists between two or more people having a conversation. People who know each other. People who can understand the tone in which something is written. Rightly or wrongly, we as a society have become protective and reactionary. This won’t change unless social media does.



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So What Needs To Change?

How long have you got, really?

Society for a start. Feels very much like an uphill battle at this point.

I understand the pros and cons of some suggestions in which people would like verification on accounts. People afraid of data being stolen or used. Despite your information pretty much being everywhere anyway. That’s another conversation for another day. Which I am more than happy to have with someone. I’ll go into more why I think that won’t happen currently a little bit later.

Social media companies need to change. That’s the big one. I’ve mentioned us as users using these platforms without education, I think the same can be said for the big companies. Well either lack of education or ignorance.

Yes, they’ve grown into multi-billion dollar companies, but at what cost? How much are they as platforms responsible for? Who decides what should be moderated and what shouldn’t? Has it gone too far to fix?

Are governments across the world responsible? Do they care? Who really holds all the power here? It is us? Them? All of us?

I suspect everyone. But whether others want to take that responsibility is another question.

Can you chuck mainstream media into this as well? Sure they report the news but they have a massive influence on how people think, react and perceive things.

The other aspect that needs to change, that ultimately holds all the power in everything we do….money.

Why Won’t Social Media Change?

Money. Money is the reason why social media won’t change currently in my opinion.

That alone is such a sad sentence.

Money trumps everything in the eyes of a lot of people. Racial abuse, homophobic abuse, mental illness, bullying, suicide. I could go on. It’s all happening on the watch of these companies. But money talks.

A common response I have seen is “If they don’t like the abuse they should get off social media.” – Infuriating.

If you were to host a dinner a party and one of your guests was racially abusing another guest, which one would you tell to fuck off? I know my answer. It shouldn’t be a debate.

Now, currently, there seems to be a severe lack of support and moderation across all platforms. More needs to be done here, there needs to be more repercussions, accountability a sense of justice for those being abused.

Now me and you might have a moral compass or a zero tolerance policy on this but from a big corporations perspective downloads equal users, users equal advertising and sponsors, advertising and sponsors equal fucking money.

Let’s play this out for a second.

Twitter, under the current laws, bring in a verification method, fine by some, not by others. And it’s a potential solution to ridding the platform of trolls. Fine with me to be honest. Sounds like bliss.

I’m aware this will not solve racism, homophobia, bullying etc. But it could educate people to behave like fucking humans, to make them understand why when certain things are said, they are not acceptable. Not that you should need educating to not be racist, another said reflection of the world.

So, Twitter is a happy place for the user. Trolls are gone, the abuse is down to a minimum and investment has been made into moderation and not just on Premier League clips.

Someone else will just set up another platform. A Twitter 2.0 if you will. Users don’t need to verify themselves and they cycle starts again. Twitter (original) loses users, money, sponsors, investment and the battle.

Until the laws change on this, the platforms won’t.

I admire Thierry Henry and others for coming off, for making a stand, for raising awareness for actively trying to do something about it.

But I can’t help but think the platforms couldn’t care less. At least that’s how it feels. It’s a fast moving environment, something else will happen, this will become old news and the platforms will be relieved.

I’ve no doubt he’s received abuse. Abuse for being him, for being in the spot light and probably for doing this. I will never be able to compare my experiences with him. Nor would I want to. But this is a man who has had enough, there will be plenty more examples.

I’ve mentioned it can be mentally draining, it can ruin your mood. You can be on your day off, innocently check social media and someone will have said something to you or someone you know and spoilt your mood. You can share something nice, something you are proud of, an achievement, something you want to share with the world. Nothing wrong with that at all. But you may get 100 nice comments and 1 negative. The 1 negative will be the one that sticks in your mind.

Now we are all wired differently, we all deal with things in our own way. But the question here isn’t about what we share, it’s about why we should share space with those who are abusive. Why should people I work with and know in the industry be subject to abuse because they are female, because of race, sexual orientation or other matters?

Why is more not being done? Will it ever change? Will we continually have to use the block and mute button or will some sort of order be restored to society? Can we do more to put pressure on governments and platforms?

Or do we sit here and be labeled ‘woke’ – part of generation brought up on ‘sticks and stones may break my bones’ – this is on all of us. It’s just a case of how badly we want it…..


I know this has been a fairly negative piece and social media isn’t all doom and gloom but as someone who uses this on a daily basis, it’s my job I’ve become tired of seeing the same shit every day with no hope of anything changing.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, let’s keep the conversation going. Use the comments section below.

Ross


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