Social media is an overall great addition to the world of sports. It allows for more people to enjoy the games we all love, but also for more depth of discussion and more personal interactions between fans, teams, and players. It’s always smooth sailing, however. Sometimes, social media can be a negative influence on sports and on fan experience. Here’s 7 ways in which social media has failed the world of sports:
1. The over importance of going viral
Athletes, across different sports and time periods, have been known for their personal showmanship. Sometimes, when the spotlight is on them, they learn to take advantage of it to the fullest. In the age of social media, this spotlight has grown magnitudes larger, and competitors are being shown not only on TV, but also across huge social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
The thing about these platforms is that success is often centred around going viral. Content turnover is extremely high, so in order for, say, a tweet to do well, it has to get a lot of attention very fast. This is usually achieved through some mix of humour, controversy, creativity, and skillfulness.
Players know this, and so you can sometimes see them attempt to be the subject of a viral video by doing something outlandish or controversial. MMA’s Conor McGregor is perhaps the best example of this. A 2 minute clip of one of his fights shows how he dominates the spotlight (as well as his opponent), taunting his opponent, and playing to the crowd. Also, notice how McGregor himself jumps onto the video his fan posted by retweeting it, in an attempt to boost its virality.
This sort of behavior isn’t necessarily bad, but it can lead to some truly embarrassing situations, where competitors become too focused on having a viral “hero” moment than playing the game properly. For example, during the 2018 World Cup, Iranian player Milad Mohammadi attempted to make an unnecessarily acrobatic flip-throw during the last seconds of a match, clearly attempting to create a legendary, unforgettable moment. The good news is he succeeded, but the bad news is in all the wrong ways. He failed his trick and was thus instantly turned into a meme across social media and made fun of. Not all attempts at virality will go how you expect them to go, and focusing on achieving virality too hard can simply detract from the quality of the sport.
2. Sports memes
Given how big sports are, there was no way the industry could escape being turned into memes. When memes become so popular that even teams feel the need to use them, that’s when things can get uncomfortable. These memes get used and overused, given their popularity, and at some point they just lose their novelty and become boring.
3. Fake rivalries and disputes between players
Players arguing over unsportsmanlike behavior during the game is maybe just as entertaining as the game itself. The game of hockey is basically built around players enforcing correct play by fighting each other. This is what sports fans have grown up watching, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Things are much less interesting when players try to pick fights off the court, on social media. In 2013 NBA players JR Smith and Brandon Jennings had choice words for each other on Twitter, resulting in JR Smith being fined $25,000 by his team. Drama after a fight on the court is fun and exciting. Twitter drama and fines are just… boring. Bickering on Twitter makes things less about in court performance and more about just talking trash. There should be a better balance in this area.
The NBA’s Serge Ibaka is a great example of this. He is famous for getting into fights on the court, usually a couple of times per year, most of the times resulting in his ejection, since he isn’t shy about throwing punches. Outside the court, Ibaka is quite the sweetheart on social media, widely beloved for his “How Hungry Are You?” cooking/interview hybrid show he does with other players. He saves the fighting and the rivalries for the court, and uses his social media for things other than low quality trash talk.
4. Social media bickering between players and fans
Social media is usually very successful in creating a direct link between fans and their favorite players. As with any direct relationship, things can easily go south between two people talking about sports. Players are human beings too, and they’re arguably the biggest fans of the sports they compete in, so it’s natural for them to react emotionally to fans that are dragging their name through the mud. Kevin Durant notoriously responds to individual fans on Twitter, picking meaningless fights with them. He has often been made fun of for this by the general fanbase, to the point where it was discovered that he created a burner Twitter account to avoid the public eye. This kind of social media interaction is just bad branding. Getting into fights with your fans on Twitter just makes players look childish and immature.
5. Oversharing and overexposure
Just like arguing with fans on Twitter can be seen as immature, so can oversharing. Social media platforms are an open space, and so athletes may make the mistake of sharing every single part of their daily lives with their fans on it, something that can become overbearing and boring in the long run. It wears down the image of stardom some athletes create for themselves on the field, and turns them into normal - even sometimes annoying - humans on socials.
6. 140 characters instead of a full story
Sports journalism has pretty much moved away from proprietary websites to Twitter and Facebook, especially when it comes to breaking stories about leagues and teams. This results in fans seeing one-sentence tweets instead of full-length, nuanced, journalistic stories. It can really detract from the story itself, and it can also undermine the gravity of the story. Legendary NFL quarterback Peyton Manning was revealed to be retiring on Twitter by Chris Mortensen. For a player as storied as Manning, having the news broken in one sentence over a tweet is very anticlimactic.
Similarly, the 2016 NCAA bracket was leaked on Twitter, effectively ruining the surprise of the announcement for a lot of fans.
Some people still want to emulate the live watching experience, even if they missed the original broadcast. This can be either through the use of internet recordings or the traditional DVR from the day before. It’s getting more and more difficult to do this, however, with how prevalent live-tweeting and post-game discussion is on social media. If you want to watch a game, without knowing any results, the day after its played, then you basically need to get rid of your phone and disconnect yourself from the internet entirely, because otherwise, you will get spoiled.