Cricketers and social media – a match made in hell?

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The national cricket team may not even remember the feeling of winning a game now, having lost so many during the recent past. They had a poor tour of New Zealand before being thrashed by Australia in the 1st Test Down Under, the game ending in 2 and a half days. As if there weren’t enough issues on the field, a social media spat between two senior cricketers and their spouses has been the hot topic in Sri Lankan cricket. 

Thisara vs Malinga

You would think that Sri Lanka’s ODI and T20I captain – Lasith Malinga – would come under a lot of scrutiny with Sri Lanka’s present white ball form. But it’s his wife, Tanya Perera, who has caught the attention as a result of a series of posts that Thisara Perera has called “dark and demeaning” and asked the board to intervene in a letter to CEO Ashley De Silva.

The whole incident seems to have begun with Perera seemingly being targeted in a Facebook post by Malinga’s wife, suggesting that he had gone to meet newly appointed Sports Minister Harin Fernando in order to secure his place in the team, amidst the chaos of the recent months. Perera responded with a post of his own, suggesting that his stats for 2018 prove his value and that he has no reason to go after anybody to secure his place in the team. Things seemed to have settled down, but after what Perera claimed to be another post he was “once again targeted as a joking point”, he took the step to write to SLC requesting an intervention.

This brings us to the discussion on the subject renowned commentator and former Sri Lanka cricketer Russel Arnold brought up.

The tweet, posted just after news of Perera’s letter to SLC came to light, has brought up a strong debate as to if players should be using social media at all.

The main purpose behind social media is to help people communicate with other people and in that sense, it has really helped players make a connection with fans and the global community at large. However, where do players draw the line with all this?

Social media has become such a part and parcel of lives that it is almost impossible to function without it. But this also opens cricketers (and of course other public figures) to the negative attention that also comes along with their performances.

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The age of social networking has also brought with it social media marketing where agents and brands use players to endorse their products – essentially meaning that players do have to maintain a kind of authentic presence on social media.

Memes

If you’re an individual using social media, you already know what this means. There are probably a million memes against Sri Lanka cricketers on social media, especially after a loss or when they’ve had a bad game. It is something that is unavoidable. There is no way that a player on social media could avoid seeing these memes and there’s no way individuals, who build their followings/fan bases through this, can be stopped from doing so either.

Past vs present 

In the past, once a game is done, whether a player had a good game or a bad one, he could go home, unwind and come back for the next game with a refreshed state of mind. If anything, an article or two may appear on the newspaper but that is easily avoidable. The same cannot be said about current professionals. With it being so easy for fans to reach players, and with the culture of ‘keyboard warriors’ people feel comfortable lambasting players on social media. Even if players try to actively avoid such posts, it is inevitable that at least a little bit of the negativity filters through to them. If you look at it objectively, it could put a huge amount of mental stress on a player.

So how do the players avoid this? Is the solution quitting social media?

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