Warriors star Shaun Johnson says the online abuse he gets from "keyboard warriors" is tantamount to bullying, and people who throw insults at him from behind a screen are "little shits".
Johnson tells Tony Veitch in a Newstalk ZB interview airing today that online abuse has made him question whether using social media is worth the hassle.
"Social media is a way to connect with fans and there's a lot out there saying you need to start posting more. On the flipside of that is it's a good way for people to vent their frustrations. I look at it as bullying, essentially," he said.
"It's just not worth it. I'm like any other person, I don't like seeing things like that."
Johnson is the latest celebrity to question the ugly side of social media, which has led to concerns over widespread teen bullying and even links to youth suicide. Even lower-profile individuals and businesses can get caught up in an online firestorm, as Ponsonby restaurant Miss Moonshine's discovered this week when offensive slogans in its bathrooms were shared on Twitter.
Johnson uses Instagram to post snaps from his life, many of which capture him out and about at glamorous functions with his Silver Fern girlfriend, Kayla Cullen.
However, pictures of him drinking alcohol often result in backlash from people who accuse him of not focusing on being match-fit for rugby league.
"It's ridiculous. It just shows people are pretty clueless about a professional athlete's life. You can't live and breathe it 24/7."
If he were out drinking every night he could understand copping some criticism, Johnson said.
"I'm not stupid about it. I understand the importance of us performing [for] people so that's still the priority."
Johnson said he had never been spoken to face-to-face the way he had by "keyboard warriors".
"I can't imagine ... talking to people the way people talk to me. I'll always roll with it because that's just part of the gig.
"They are, though, they're little shits. People think we don't have feelings."
Johnson recently pledged to stay off Instagram until the league season was over, in order to focus on winning footie games.
Former All Blacks Dan Carter and Richie McCaw have also experienced social media backlash recently, taking flak on Facebook for going public with their flag preference ahead of the second referendum last month.