The Wessex Wire

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The Wessex Wire

The Wessex Wire

SPORTS COMMENTARY: Social media instigates toxicity from sports fans

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Courtesy of ESPN’s Instagram
Typically these comments are under women’s basketball posts across popular outlets for sports content.

Social media has revolutionized how sports fans enjoy the hobby: you no longer have to read the newspaper for a recap on the latest games or tune in to ESPN to get the latest news. Everything is at your fingertips when you open your Instagram or X feed. At first, social media was a way for sports fans to come together, but now it’s splitting apart a community that it should be uniting.

During COVID, along with everyone’s lives, sports were also put on lockdown. Fans turned to their Instagram and Twitter feeds to fill the void left by the pause to favorite forms of entertainment. This caused a spike in engagement for many different sports accounts, making them a hub for fans to reminisce on old sports memories. 

When sports returned, TikTok entered the national spotlight for social media and many fans used the platform to become their own analysts. Fans flood the app with their hottest takes, rankings and thoughts on the latest topics. The culture in the comment sections is almost always negative and fans are often coming after not only the creator of the video but also other commenters. 

Instagram comment sections are not much better. Lots of fans will flood the comments under popular media accounts like ESPN with hateful comments toward women’s sports, often mocking their ability to play basketball. If they don’t comment directly on their ability to play, they’ll question why the post was even put up in the first place. 

New fans are bombarded with hate if they comment on a post with wrong information or ask for clarification. I’ve scrolled through comment section replies with hundreds of hateful comments coming at somebody who just wants to get into a new sport. 

Recently, the College Football Playoff selection committee stirred arguments from fans of several universities after releasing the 2023 College Football Playoff bracket. Florida State fans were upset they were excluded, Alabama fans were defending their right to be in the playoff and Georgia fans felt they were better than both the Seminoles and Crimson Tide after their 63-3 win in the Orange Bowl and Alabama’s loss in the Rose Bowl. I took to Instagram myself to comment on a post defending someone’s take, and I had over 300 likes on my comment but also several responses coming at me. 

I used to run a sports Instagram account when I was younger, and remember being harassed with comments about my takes. I would have hour-long violent arguments with random people online. I found that if you post controversial content, those comments would actually drive the engagement up and those posts would get more likes but also more hate. That’s what’s happening here. Hate and attacks to accounts or other commenters, while horrible, are still engagement for users. Making content creators more likely to say outrageous content but also instigating more comments from users on the used platform. 

Sports are changing at a wide range level that hasn’t been seen in this younger generation’s lifetime. Social media has so much potential to become the perfect landscape for fans, but the toxicity hinders it from making it a true game changer for any new fans to sink their teeth into. On the surface level, it’s a great way to enjoy the hobby. But, the more you keep digging it’s a toxic environment that is stopping others from enjoying the sports we all love together.

Behind the Byline
JJ Rella, Managing Editor
JJ Rella is a 2023-2024 Managing Editor for the Wessex Wire. When he isn't playing baseball he's most likely watching the Yankees game at home. He spends a lot of time watching and following other professional sports too, with his other favorite teams being the Packers and Knicks. He also never takes off his wireless beats headphones, listening to Tyler, The Creator, Drake, Frank Ocean and more on timeless loops.
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