Tom Sandells' Preston North End press view: We need to be mindful on social media

Every man and their dog is on social media these days - literally.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 4:45 pm

It can be fantastic and allow for unparalleled access to the world’s starts, including footballers.

The reach of social media is infinite, you can see the smallest team from the smallest country score an extraordinary goal from half way across the world, and you’d be one of millions who do. It’s ability to do good is infinite, as is it’s propensity to spout vile hate.

In recent weeks that has been highlighted as Manchester United players in particular seem to be targeted each week depending on performance, and Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah was targeted for having the audacity to turn up to work and train.

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Alex Neil feels his players shouldn't look at social media.

These attacks have been racially motivated and have caused many to speak out.

They come fresh off the back of the Black Lives Matter campaign dominating much of last year in a fight for social justice and equality.

James McClean has also been speaking about his abuse through social media channels, which include death threats to him and his family.

It is just all too easy to attack sports stars, or people in general, online and have very little repercussions.

The account that racially abused Nketiah? Permanently banned.

That’ll show them. That is, until they just use a different email address and sign up all the same.

Alex Neil spoke this week about the effect that social media can have on his players.

Amongst his views he said “players are not robots” and that is important to remember.

Just because these people are in the public eye it doesn’t mean they’re all of a sudden immune to feelings.

Neil has had his players in the past be down about their game or themselves and have referenced social media as a contributing factor.

PNE don’t exactly have the largest fanbase in the world but it is very active on social media, with plenty of opinions flying around.

Opinions are fine, that’s what makes football what it is at times. But given the size of the fanbase, what PNE are generally up against when it comes to finances and other clubs, why take them down a peg or two by abusing them online?

The North End boss didn’t go into specifics about the level or abuse or the level of effect it has on his players, but even if there is some impact, what is there to gain?

There are many nameless accounts on social media, some can be completely harmless or a bit of fun.

Others are just a way of taking an opportunity to have a go at someone.

There is very little being done to stop this by social media companies. Granted, it is hard to police.

There are millions of users and each could have multiple email addresses and multiple accounts.

But one way of dealing with it that has been mentioned is having to connect ID to these accounts.

I personally think this is the best way to go.

The information can remain private, it doesn’t have to mean you can only have one account.

What it does bring is accountability.

If that account then begins to send racial abuse, death threats or similar things, you can see who the person is behind the keyboard.

As Alex Neil said, the worst thing you can do for these types of people online is give them the oxygen they crave.

They often do it for a reaction.

That doesn’t then mean you just ignore it, because it doesn’t solve the problem. You still have a racist out there sounding off. There needs to be action done towards the person to either punish or educate or both.

Social media isn’t all bad.

In the last few days, Boot The Virus announced they raised over £63,500 through a campaign that was helped massively by social media. How else would that have been possible?

How else would someone with an idea and a drive to do good be able to make something happen such as that?

They of course went through normal channels too and PNE were on board from the start which gave them a boost, but social media and its ability to reach so many played a role.

Jesse Lingard tweeted a video to congratulate the winner of his boots, to his two million followers.

As Ben Davies left PR1, I’d be surprised if he didn’t see the outpouring of love and well wishes from the PNE fans as he completed his Liverpool move.

When players suffer injuries it’s not uncommon to thank the fans that reached out to show their support and let them know they’ll be welcomed back as soon as they’re able to be.

Social media can make someone feel on top of the world but can also reduce them to next to nothing in moments.

It is volatile but in the right doses, with the right people, it can be fantastic.

More has to be done to regulate it.

It is far too easy to cause distress to someone with a nameless, faceless account that will be suspended and two more like pop up almost immediately after.

Footballers and other celebrities are people too, they are no different and they are also not more entitled to be on the receiving end of abuse.

As more and more cases are brought into the news we can only hope that those that use their platforms for making life worse will take a look at themselves and reflect.

The internet and online accounts are only becoming more accessible and that isn’t always a good thing.

Governing bodies are pleading with the huge companies that run these sites to do more and take control of the hate.

Until those in charge do anything it’s going to be tough.

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