Can Sports and Social Media Co-Exist?
Tweeting Away Civility
Twitter was in trouble. There was growing concern on Wall Street that it was a money loser. There was even a proposal among a bloc of major Investors to turn the Social Media Company into a Co-Op. At the same time, the Big 4 Television Networks were trying to figure out how to keep their profits going. NFL Scandals, Player Protests and changes in Viewer Watching were sinking NFL Ratings. Media Analysts began freaking out. Having watched the Cable Subscriber cuts and PrimeTime Viewership falling, even for Live Programming, the NFL was supposed to be bulletproof. If even it was susceptible to losing Viewers, Network Profitability was seriously threatened.
But there was social media, just waiting. The NFL had tested Live Streaming of a Game Played in London, the "Yahoo! Broadcast". The results were mixed. Both in quality and Viewer numbers. But it started the countdown on the move online. Facebook and Twitter became desirable "Partners". But could it be more?
Disney had already gone into business with Major League Baseball, buying control of BAMTech, Baseball's new Streaming Platform. But what about Twitter? It was there and ripe for the plucking. Some Wall Street Analysts even thought a deal was imminent. But the House of Mouse pulled back. There were numerous reasons. But the biggest?
The sewer that is social media didn't fit with Disney's Family Marketplace.
This set the tone for how everyone in Sports began looking at the platform. Before Facebook Data Breaches there was the stench of the content. The nastiest seemed to rise to the top of the feeds. Women in Sports Media began complaining about social media. Many sounding like the Actresses and Musicians before them who had felt the painful sting of the trolls. Noone seemed able to stop it.
Things were bad and getting worse as the slamming together of Sports and Politics refused to go away.
Have You Experienced Serious Bullying, Stalking or Abuse on Social Media?
Freedom and the Art of Social Survival
In many Countries, online abuse of any kind is considered one of the most serious abusive acts. In several European Countries, it can actually bring a charge of Terrorism. And no, that wasn't a miss-print. Terrorism. And there are People in those Countries today, including the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden, serving prison sentences for what we consider an average day on social media.
So who's right?
There are great and growing concerns about the potential harm online, often especially social media. But in America, we value Freedom of Speech to be untouchable. For good reason. In Hong Kong, new laws were enacted to make wearing certain types of clothing and masks illegal. So waging Democracy Protests becomes more difficult. In many ways, Freedom of Speech and Expression are at the center of all Freedom.
But when does Free Speech cost too much?
To some extent we're able to avoid having to ask that question because online sites, including social media are usually privately owned by Companies. This means they can establish their own standards for conduct without having to consider impinging on Freedom. Discomfort can be the line.
But we risk falling into Europe's trap, where in some places simply saying something that makes someone else uncomfortable is against the law. The bar is set at discomfort. I don't see how such a low threshold can exist and Freedom of any kind still exist. Perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps the United States is the only Country on Earth where the Freedom of the Individual is what's aspired for.
These are the types of questions we may find ourselves being forced to examine. Such are the concerns about social media. Especially where Children are concerned. Which brings it all back around to Sports.
Networks and Sports Leagues & other Organizations would love to make greater use of social media. It's made for it. But it's also ripe for angry raw emotion, trolls, online stalkers and abuse. Sports have such ability to pull us together, Nelson Mandela said it's unmatched. He used Rugby to bring South Africans together when nothing else worked. But Sports can also tear us apart.
And social media provides just the tools to do it with. Can we find a way to make mixing it and Sports safe for Fans. Especially Young Fans? For some Sports, the survival of the Games may come down to helping Fans survive social media GameSmack.