In recent years, social media has brought to light some of the darker aspects of our football club, it's fans and the community which we share online. Since the introduction of social media to football, it's purpose has been rather disregarded by a minority who have made these last few years a particularly difficult period for the younger generation of Wanderers fans who are naive to the cruelties of it all. To explore whats changed, I'm going to put social media under the spotlight to see just how much of an impact it is having on our relationships with the club and one another.
As a 17 year old myself, I can comfortably say that, since joining social media, I have learnt more about the real world than from an actual educational perspective. The sights which I see on a daily basis online have been enough to teach me how much of an influence that having an online presence can have on my future.
Since day one, it always seemed to be a popularity contest to see who could get the most likes, who could go viral the quickest and who could be most controversial. However, as we see so often nowadays, this has come back to bite the masses who have fallen into the trap of wanting that five minutes of fame online, particularly those in the football community.
Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook updates, Snapchat screenshots and even WhatsApp conversations are all dragged back up solely for the purpose of humiliating the subject at the forefront of it all. To me, this initially seems unfair on those who deserve a chance to prove themselves, regardless of in what role, be it a player, a fan or an your average employee. However, at the same time, responses like these only come as a result of someones actions online highlighting why we need to be so careful when posting online as things we say which remain online forever, regardless of it's attempted removal, have ended people's careers in a split second.
Seeing people's careers being ended so easily via this exposure of previous status' has made me very wary not to fall in to this trap, I can't afford to, and neither can anyone else, no matter what age.
Of course, this goes for any industry, but the sporting industry in particular, has brought the worst out in some people who I'm sure will live to regret it. This shows that no matter how much you may want 'retweets' or 'likes', it can have serious consequences should it be deemed inappropriate, offensive or abusive which has been made so much easier to be accused of recently.
Despite teenagers being the targeted audience for lessons about behaviour online, so many of those from the older generation of Bolton fans are guilty of similar offences, if not the same, and it's not just the fans. With so many controversial tweets being sent out by footballers too, the youngsters are copying their actions in an attempt to act like their role-models, who, so often these days, should, by no means, be held in that respect. As a growing trend in football, the players are becoming a target for the press and the media because they can't be trusted to act responsibly and in a manner which can be replicated by the younger generation and is increasingly becoming more of a problem, but thats for another day.
With so much of this being influenced by tweets made by these personalities, kids are similarly looking up to these so-called personalities on social media who have somehow gained themselves a few likes and a reputation for being a respected football account. With a few of these accounts now similarly unable to portray football in a positive light or encourage youngsters in any responsible way, it is about time something is done. Twitter may well remove these cowardly accounts who hide behind a keyboard, but something needs to be done on a wider scale to stop kids being so easily influenced by these accounts. Unaware as they may be, they are are causing more and more of the younger generation to get into hot water because they think that is how they should act at home with their parents, in the stands at the football and particularly online.
I am hoping that all this can be dealt with in a similar way to which has so excellently kicked racism out of football in recent years and can eventually vacate and clean out social media of trolls who are having such a bad influence on our younger generation of fans.
So where does Bolton link into all this you may ask? Well, the need to keep our younger fans safe online from abuse is one point, but equally as much, the need to stop the older fans from targeting the club's social media outlets on a regular basis and encouraging the naive&younger fans into saying something they'll regret in years to come is vital. The damage it can do to the individual victims, relationships with certain parties and the mental and phycological state of those who have made the mistakes and regretted them is unthinkable. There are constantly reminders of helplines for those who feel as if they're being threatened or need someone to ask for advice, but there should be a line of action taken before that, by fellow Bolton fans. As a community, we should be on the look out to help those out who have fallen into these vicious traps, who are being targeted, who are fearful of their online status and their future careers. After all, we all support the same club don't we?
There's nothing I want more for there to come a point where everybody is amicable with everyone at Bolton. Where no-one is blocked by one another. Where relations across all levels are open and respected. Where Bolton fans can comfortably come together as a community, and show the passion that we all share for the same thing truly and freely without being conscious of those around them judging them or receiving hate for sharing their personal opinions, providing they are not hatred-filled themselves.
This is the main message that I have attempted to portray in this article, through all the tough times that we've been through, through all the arguments, through all the anger and tears, isn't it time we came together as a football community? As a football club? As Bolton Wanderers Football Club. So, lets make a pact not to burn any more bridges, only build. A pact to get along with one another, we can't be seen to be a club who isn't family friendly, we need a reputation which doesn't consist of us being a laughing stock. A pact which sees us offer our fellow fans support and not turn them away when they need help and finally, a pact to get behind Parky and the lads this season, they're going to need it.
Roll on Sunday, COYWM!