Ash Taylor’s form struggles have been amplified by social media. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Ash Taylor’s form struggles have been amplified by social media. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Anti-social media hitting athletes hard

Don't live in that space - the message is simple, but the challenge enormous.

Like all of his Titans teammates Ash Taylor was given that advice about social media, the acid-tipped arrow that so often punctures the confidence of modern sportsmen.

But like so many children of his generation the trouble was that social media is his world.

He was not born into it but he was raised in it. It was all around him and it got to him in the end. And he is not alone.

 

Ash Taylor has been given time off by the Titants. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP
Ash Taylor has been given time off by the Titants. Picture: Dave Hunt/AAP

 

Taylor has taken time away from rugby league to deal with the stresses that come with being paid a million dollars a year and are struggling to live up to the price tag, opening himself up to vicious social media criticism which he is urged to ignore but it seeps into his world like a leaking gas pipe.

Taylor is not the only sportsman to feel a target on his back.

Australian cricketer Shaun Marsh has not looked at his Twitter account for four years. He hasn't had to because he knows exactly what's in it … a flood a ruthless taunts about his hot and cold career for his country.

But Marsh is 35. Social media never really became a big thing until he was in his late 20s. He has known life before it and without it. And it was a far less stressful life too.

 

It's been a long time since Shaun Marsh checked his feed.
It's been a long time since Shaun Marsh checked his feed.

 

Former Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, who is not on social media, used to have a stock answer when staffers used to enter his office fretting over feedback of the club on Twitter or Facebook.

"Well, be like me and don't sign up to it and don't read it and you won't know what you have missed,'' Bennett said.

Among the players most taunted on social media are the million dollar men who, like Taylor and Ben Hunt, received massive deals yet struggle to live up to their pay packet.

Hunt became so disturbed by the trolls he sort a psychologist for strategies to overcome them.

When quizzed about Hunt's plight Bennett stuck to his mantra that what you don't know can't hurt you.

"If you are a football player and you read social media then you really are a bit of a fool,'' Bennett said.

"I can't have any sympathy on the social media stuff. He doesn't have to read it, that is my point."

 

Ben Hunt has copped all kinds of abuse online. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
Ben Hunt has copped all kinds of abuse online. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Many sporting clubs are wrestling with how to protect their players from social media warriors and no-one has truly found the answer because the landscape changes every year and the issue is so new there is no history to learn from.

Port Adelaide AFL club have banned phones for the first hour after the final siren.

Players had been making a beeline for their Twitter accounts as soon as they entered the rooms to see what was said about them on social media and it was short-circuiting the dressing room banter which is so important to team harmony.

The Port players get together twice a week for breakfast or lunch and are not allowed to take their phones.

There are some famous sportsmen who cannot wait until the match is over to find out what the world thinks of them.

Several American basketball stars are renowned for ducking into the locker room at halftime of an NBA match and checking their phones, especially if they are having a shocker.

They are men on $30 million a year yet they cannot wait to hear what the butcher, the baker and the candle stick makers, often under assumed names, think of their performance.

You are quite right … the world has gone mad.