When it comes to Gaelic games, social media has proven to be a mixed blessing. While fans across the world can keep up to date with the fortunes and misfortunes of their club and county, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook also offer users the opportunity to post anonymous views aimed at stirring up controversy.
While many social media users I have encountered offer worthwhile and often insightful analysis and many also provide fantastic material on Facebook pages, there is a minority who offer nothing but bile and negativity. Unfortunately, I’ve seen how this minority can affect those who have the ability to provide hours of informed opinion, history and entertainment on social media.
The negative element of social media was prominent during the recent Roscommon GAA debacle, as it was during the managerial wrangling last year and as it will be in any future rumblings within the county.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no problem with social media users offering criticism or voicing negative opinions when it comes to sport. Freedom of expression is vital in all walks of life. The problem I have, however, is with those users who hide behind fake profiles and slate players and management. Anonymity is a luxury most of us can’t enjoy and therefore we must exercise caution and attempt to deal in only fact.
I shudder to think what might happen if stringent libel laws were put in place when it came to social media. One thing’s for sure: Twitter and Facebook would be far more peaceful and measured in the long run!
Anonymity has a part to play in certain situations, of course, but I find it difficult to believe throwing mud at footballers and officials is one of them.
Going forward, I think the best measure organisations and individuals on social media can take is to simply block those anonymous trolls who offer nothing to the debate and instead get off on the reflected attention that their acidic comments offer them. In fairness, you’re highly unlikely to find anyone among them who would be willing to volunteer their own time for the development of Roscommon GAA anyway.