Being a fanatic about something is no new phenomenon. From the very first Olympic games, people have gathered to watch and cheer for their favorite contestant competing in an event. With the inventions of radio, television, and now the internet, fans have found new ways of following and supporting their favorite players, teams, television shows, etc. However, social media have not only provided an opportunity to connect with fellow fans, it has also provided a way to personally connect to the object of fan-obsession. So this begs the question: has this new form of interaction pushed fan boundaries too far?
With the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other such social networking sites, it has become easier to stay up-to-date with star athletes, celebrities, and the like. Almost instantly, you can watch a replay of a football play or be informed of the stats of every major baseball game happening at the same time. People now have the ability to live-tweet about reality shows, singing competitions, and other such events. And now the investment is reciprocated. Athletes can now get feedback from their fans about their opinions and thoughts on games and overall efficiency of the team. They can personally answer a fan about a question or thank someone for their support. In addition to that, Twitter is also a promotional tool for games or tournaments. This new way of interacting is a much better and easier outlet to show devotion to a certain fandom. In general, this seems like a great way for fans to be supportive of their favorite teams and athletes and to connect to them on a more personal level. Examples of certain athletes and coaches using Twitter can be found here:
BUT. The same can be said of displaying hatred for a rival team. Cyber-bullying is no new thing, and now with Twitter and Facebook fan pages, people can directly attack someone whom they dislike. And man, can some individuals be vicious! I personally don’t understand the need to rip someone apart via the internet (or in person, for that matter), so I have a hard time comprehending how people can be so completely rude and spiteful to someone they don’t even know. There is honestly no need to wish someone dead just because they play for a rival team or made a mistake in their PRIVATE life, which is part of being human. Because people can now personally connect to the object of their rage, barriers are being broken between public figures and private citizens.
One example of hate tweeting is a follower of the 49ers football player Brandon Jacobs. After being injured during a game, the Twitter follower said, “I hope you die a horrible death.” Jacobs handled the situation in a graceful manner, which can be read here:
This and other such instances bring up the issue of whether or not Twitter and Facebook have allowed fans and other users to have too much access to celebrities and athletes. Should these social networking sites be monitored for hate messages? If there were a way to monitor and limit these kinds of online attacks, who should have that kind of control?