Everybody has social media. As of January 2021, 2.7 billion people use Facebook worldwide. The world’s population is 7.8 billion. That means 35% of the world use Facebook.
Chances are, if you include the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, the percentage of people using social media would be a lot higher than just 35%.
So, everybody has social media.
However, as we have seen recently, it isn’t always used positively. In fact, some apps may have become a place for more bad than good.
Twitter has become one of the main culprits of this. We have seen over the past few months a number of high-level footballers be on the receiving end of abuse. Manchester United pair Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have suffered some vile racial abuse, while Arsenal player Granit Xhaka has also consistently been a target of Twitter ‘trolls’.
In truth, things have been gradually worsening for a few years now, with the introduction of ‘cancel culture’ and ‘Stans’ online.
The term ‘Stan’ – with the dictionary definition, 'an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity' – actually originated in a song by rapper Eminem, depicting a fictional fan who eventually killed himself and his girlfriend after failing to get a response back from the legendary musician after sending a number of letters to him.
Albeit these fans on social media will probably never go to those lengths, it sure does illustrate how awful some people on Twitter can get.
Disagree with an opinion? You get an army of people flood your timeline with anger and abuse.
Don’t like a celebrity? You get an obsessive cult tell you just how much they disagree.
A sportsman puts in a bad performance? Death threats and racial abuse from hundreds of so-called ‘fans’.
But all this has spiked to unfortunate new heights in the last months. With footballers almost every weekend now coming out and revealing that they have suffered abuse online, social media has become a place of hate.
Following the abuse of Arsenal player Willian, a spokesperson of the club said: "This is another depressing example of what is sadly happening to our players and many others on a regular basis.
"Social media is one of the ways our supporters across the world can feel closer to the club and our players, but across football and beyond we’ve seen an online world poisoned by hateful, racist and discriminatory words.”
The Football Association of Ireland also said this about one of their players, James McClean, who was abused online: “Unfortunately, such behaviour is all too common now on social media. Only last week we commended the stance taken by English football against the abuse of footballers across all social media channels and we are examining how best we can take a similar stance.”
So why has this happened? It’s tough to say for certain, but with the country being plunged into three lockdowns during a global pandemic, that has surely been a factor.
That is of course not an excuse. There is no excuse for these actions. But with people now stuck at home, spending more time on their phones and more time watching television, they are more likely to get into social media and spiral and join their own little online cliques.
Some people also just want attention and want to cause trouble. These ‘trolls’ live online, going around and looking to get into arguments with anyone and everyone. They get pleasure from winding people up and attacking people who disagree with them.
Which makes the responses of high-profile social media founders all the more disappointing.
Following these recent events, the Football Association chief Mark Bullingham, a number of Premier League bosses and Mike Riley and Sanjay Bhandari of Kick It Out all sent a joint letter to Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg demanding they do something to control what goes on their platforms and limit abuse.
“We have had many meetings with your executives over the years but the reality is your platforms remain havens for abuse.
“Your inaction has created the belief in the minds of the anonymous perpetrators that they are beyond reach.”
Their response? Weak and feeble.
Facebook stated that they couldn’t take down monkey or banana emojis, ‘because you have to think of context’, while Twitter reassured us that they ‘will continue to take swift action on the minority that try to undermine the conversation for the majority.’
Yet again, no action taken. All it is, is rich billionaires thinking of filling their pockets. Just words with little meaning and more false promises.