Social media is a great way for athletes to connect with their fans, but it’s also a great way for other people, who are definitely not fans, to connect with athletes. That includes bespattering
them with spittle-flecked missives of toxic hatred. Hurrah for social media! Hurrah for people!
This week, U.S. Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner told People magazine that
she has “officially decided to give up social media” until after she has finished competing in Sochi. Wagner said she received mountains of hate mail, or postings, or whatever you want to
call it, after she beat out another contender, Mirai Nagasu, for the last spot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team.
Many online commentators felt that Wagner came by her victory
unfairly, considering she made several slip-ups at the national championships. Social media users offered any number of theories for the choice, including her good looks, racist judges and (judging by
the postings), the fact that she is just plain evil.
Wagner told People: “Twitter is a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s tough to filter out the good
things that you hear and the awful things that people will write, so I’m going cold turkey.”
Lest anyone think figure skaters are the only competitors who can’t take
the heat on social media, mixed martial arts champion Rashad Evans expressed similar feelings about Twitter in a recent interview with MMAjunkie: “If I read a couple and get mad, and I
feel like saying something back? That’s when I know I need to cool out for a second and turn it off. Because Twitter, it’s great, but Twitter will hurt your damn feelings, man.”
Evans noted that the distance and anonymity of social media emboldens critics to say things they otherwise might not: “People will say some outrageous things on there. It makes you
feel like, man, if I was there with you, I bet a million dollars you wouldn’t even want to think that because you’d be scared I might hear your thoughts and beat the hell out of
Even a sport as sedate as golf has its social media trolls, according to Irish golf phenom Rory McIlroy, who recently complained that social media was getting under his
skin: “I don't care what they say about my golf. It’s when they start digging into your personal life, that's where it starts to annoy you.”