Social Media: How has it changed the game?
By Kayla Voss

It’s a different game than it was even ten years ago. Sure, the style of the game is different, but I mean the effect of social media. Naturally, social media has both positive and negative effects for everyone, and it is no different for football. 

Social media platforms have minimised the divide between AFL players and their fans – the public voice. Fans are passionate about the sport they love, but especially about the team they support. The expectation and pressure AFL footballers and coaches experience is at its peak. The fans’ ability to reach the players, and some coaches, through social media can create a toxic environment. Comments which call players names, comments which aim to hurt players and coaches out of frustration, and comments which call for the sacking of coaches are all toxic and discouraging. Seeing those comments and reading about yourself in such a negative way is damaging. 

Mental health and wellbeing is being normalised in the AFL and there is a good reason for it. There’s only so many comments you can ignore and let slide before they start to get to you. Can you imagine people, who you have never met, assuming things about your life and job? Can you imagine random people calling for you to get fired? To be unemployed because, according to them, you are not enough? It’s brutal. Unfortunately, it is something that cannot be taken out of our game. People will always have an opinion about things in the public eye. However, this brings us to the positive aspects of social media in our game. 

The negative practices of social media are helping normalise mental health issues. Players especially have resources available to them, and an understanding from the public that their mental health is a priority. Social media gives fans the opportunity to see them as people; people with families and friends – things greater than the game. 

Social media will always encourage both love and hate. However, as footy fans we need to remember our relationships with players and coaches is much more involved than it was only ten years ago. Luckily, the game is evolving with us. Although our modern world will.

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