2020 has thrown up challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen before. But while our own personal struggles are usually contained within a small and intimate sphere, those required and/or pressured to be on social media have their difficulties laid bare.
News emerged today of Liverpool actively encouraging their rising stars to forego the bright lights of social media.
The lure of racking up like after like and follower after follower can be difficult for young people to resist, never mind those thrust into the public eye through their occupation.
Football is no different to all elements of life. There are dizzying heights and soul-crushing lows. But when you’re a teenager simply striving to forge your own path, those on the other side of the ether aren’t always so quick to understand.
Reds right-back Neco Williams made an unfortunate mistake in the club’s 7-2 EFL Cup victory over Lincoln City in September.
What followed was a torrent of abuse from people whose opinions shouldn’t be given the light of day. The sad truth is that it is simply unavoidable on social media.
Neco Williams is an outstanding young #LFC player and a model professional. Jürgen Klopp and Ryan Giggs both have huge hopes for him. He’s 19, still learning and is bound to make the occasional mistake. Some so called fans plummeting a new low abusing him online after a 7-2 win.
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) September 25, 2020
The issue of stricter regulation and moderation of social media content is a debate for another day, but one measure that can be taken to shield young stars’ mental welfare is to avoid the platforms altogether.
Williams took a hiatus from social media following his ordeal, though has since returned.
He may not be the only one we see boycotting the platforms if the comments of Liverpool’s performance psychologist – Lee Richardson – are anything to go by.
Richardson told the Athletic: “It can have a negative effect on many people and people in the public eye are even more in the firing line for negative comments.
“I often encourage young players, in particular, to avoid using platforms, especially when they are trying to establish themselves.
“There are benefits of social media obviously, but the evidence is clear that people can have very negative experiences and therefore caution has to be a guiding principle for everyone when using it.”
Regarding the abuse Williams received earlier in the season, Liverpool assistant boss Pep Lijnders revealed senior players, along with Jurgen Klopp, were drafted in to put a proverbial arm around the full-back’s shoulder.
“We had senior players speaking with him, we had our manager speaking with him,” he said via the Daily Star.
“It’s a phase he must go through, but getting caught up in praise or criticism, you cannot do. Neither will help you as a young player.”
Social media is so interwoven into the fabric of society it has become a daily part of almost everyone’s life.
It’s here to stay and is by no means an unmitigated evil. Breaking news, healthy debate, fund raising, discrimination awareness, the highlighting of struggle and holding power to account are just a handful of positives that can emerge from use of the platforms.
Indeed, you’ll probably have come across this article through social media, and without it, this piece may have slipped you by.
But the pitfalls of the systems are unavoidable and as with life, lows come with the highs in equal measure.
For young footballers, if the stresses and strains of social media are proving too much, they should not feel obligated to look the other way or take it on the chin.
Sometimes less is more, and Liverpool should be applauded for actively encouraging their youngsters to forego extra publicity for the benefit of their mental health.