With Social Media now all the rage there is a new outlet for those who wish to vent their spleen. However, as with all things, sometimes things go a little too far.
Now, before anyone jumps on the “but we have free speech” bandwagon, yes I agree, we do have freedom of speech.
We have the right to say just about anything to anyone. However, in my view there have to be self-imposed limits.
When the comments overstep the mark or become bullying, it is time for the social media sites to react and do something.
Madison Keys has talked about this in the past.
Nothing seems to be done when personal attacks are made. Tennys Sandgren has also recently spoken on the topic.
The American spends his time on the lower tier of the ATP tour, playing in Challengers both singles and doubles.
This level of the tour can be extremely lonely (as is the life of a tennis player in general, unless you are one of the better known ones; but even then there is still a lot of traveling involved, and your team may not want to be with you at every event).
Traveling and playing on the lower tiers can mean that sometimes your only communication with family and friends is via social media.
Sandgren has stated that he has checked his phone after a match to find abusive messages on his social media.
The messages have usually been from a disgruntled gambler who has lost money due to the result of the match the American had just been involved in.
Sandgren sometimes gets involved in a discussion with the poster. The abusive person has even once apologized for being an idiot on occasions, admitting they posted “in the heat of the moment.”
However, there have been many worse incidents aimed at players, and this is really where the social media sites have to step in.
Brit Kyle Edmund recently had a disgusting message posted on his page; fortunately this is monitored by his team (including his father).
The message wished for a terrorist to blow himself up next to the Brit.
Edmund has received various other messages on social media in a similar vein, wishing he gets cancer or breaks an arm, etc.
The top players are not immune from this either. Andy Murray has regularly been “trolled” on social media.
The new World #1 has also in the past engaged in conversation with those who have posted messages to him (usually when he has lost, that he is rubbish, couldn’t hit a barn door from five paces, etc.).
The most horrible message seen posted on his timeline was just after he finally broke his silence on which way he would vote (had he actually had a vote) in the Scottish referendum.
A disgruntled poster told him that “you should have died in Dunblane.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunblane_school_massacre)
Murray, who was aged nine at the time of the incident, was at the school that day. He very rarely talks about it, but did break his silence in a compelling documentary with Sue Barker in 2013. Even then it was difficult for him to discuss.
Something has to be done about this. The ATP and WTA take this seriously, and the social media sites do seem to occasionally do something. Accounts of the posters have been taken down, but this won’t end it, as a new account can be opened up quickly.
What is the solution? I’m not sure.
It has been suggested that the players don’t have social media accounts, but then how will they interact with fans online?
Any players who don’t interact with fans are likely then to be known as “aloof,” “boring,” etc. This feels like a no-win situation.
Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter need to take faster action; when a post is reported to them as abusive, they cannot just come back with “it does not break our terms and conditions” and similar.
Yet if they react and take down accounts then they will be screamed at about freedom of speech.
It is a difficult situation, and I am not sure there is an answer.