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For professional athletes, there is nothing quite as demoralizing as boos raining down on you from your hometown fans. Not only can it interfere with your focus and determination, it can really cause you to question your own ability and talent. Well, those problems are only magnified on social media, where anyone can become a troll, a detractor and a sworn enemy. On social media, the booing can be nonstop and aggressively negative.
And that’s why so many athletes seem to be quitting social media these days – they just can’t take it anymore when their team is having a losing season, or when the media is taking them to task for failing to play up to their ability. Imagine logging into Facebook or Twitter everyday and having a torrent of people telling you that you’re no good, that you should be traded, or that you’re a failure. That’s a lot of negativity to absorb.
Lessons from the NFL
One place where this is playing out is Philadelphia, where the Eagles are facing all sorts of questions heading into the next NFL season. There’s a quarterback controversy, a coaching controversy, and all sorts of grumbling about failed draft picks and faded talent. Remember, Philadelphia is the city that infamously booed Santa Claus, so you can imagine just how aggressively negative the local fan base can become.
Case in point: Eagles offensive lineman Andre Dillard, a former first-round pick who has never played up to his potential, has quit social media entirely. He’s blissfully unaware of all the speculation over his playing status for the 2021-2022 season, and he is now able to focus 100 percent on his job. According to reporters covering the Eagles, Dillard is “healthier, lighter and more at ease.” He’s no longer afraid to face the media, and no longer lives in fear of his mobile phone. He’s tired of all the “general negativity in the world,” and just wants to play football.
And he’s not the only Eagle thinking about scaling back social media usage this year. Quarterback Jalen Hurts and wide receiver Jalen Reagor – two top draft picks who also have failed to live up to expectations – are also re-thinking the potential distractions posed by social media. As Eagles players now realize, criticism is just a scroll away on their phones. It’s tough living up to comparisons to other fellow draft picks who became superstars in their first year in the league. Instead, all they hear about is how they are failures. (Former Eagles player Nelson Agholor is still an Internet meme these days for his ability to drop easy balls.
How to quit social media
That being said, there appear to be several different approaches to quitting social media if you’re a top athlete. The easiest solution is simply to “go dark” immediately before and after a game. So, if you’re an NFL player, that means going off Facebook on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It’s harder to do if you’re playing every night, though. (Baseball and basketball players, take note) And that’s why another strategy is simply to go off social media once the season starts. Clemson, for example, was one of the first supporters of the idea that entire teams should go off social media once the season starts, mostly to maintain focus and determination.
Unfortunately, most athletes decide to quit social media only AFTER something has gone terribly wrong. This includes athletes stuck in ongoing slumps, players on teams that are on an extended losing streak, or players who simply flubbed a play or two in a big game. Every big mistake gets magnified these days, thanks to social media, and there’s nowhere to hide if fans think you cost your team the game.
Lessons for all of us
Most of us, it’s fair to say, are not professional athletes. But we are professionals, nonetheless. So there are some lessons here for all of us. Perhaps the biggest and most important lesson is that there is a direct link between social media usage and mental health. If social media is bringing you down in your profession, then you need to scale back your activity. Who knows? Quitting social media might just be the key to happiness. You’ll be living in the moment, and you won’t be worrying about what all the haters are saying about you.