Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Shaun Johnson shouldn't be shocked by online abuse

Shaun Johnson and the Warriors have struggled to find form this season. Photo / Getty
Shaun Johnson and the Warriors have struggled to find form this season. Photo / Getty

It's a bit of a surprise that Shaun Johnson has been shocked by the negative messages on social media.

He shouldn't be, it's a fact of life. There are a lot of angry, frustrated and, crucially, anonymous people who need to vent, particularly at public figures. No matter how unreasonable it seems, it's never going to stop. It's anti-social media. It can be awful and hideous, but the only realistic solution is to ignore it.

As Johnson said, the kind of vitriol he has experienced is something no one would ever say to his face (except perhaps a drunk at a pub), but that's the beauty of being online - no accountability.

Johnson has 217,000 followers on Instagram. That's huge for an NRL player, more than the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis.

Probably 215,000 of those are normal people, happy to have a window into their hero's world.

But a few hundred, maybe a couple of thousand, will be the online bullies. Today's New Zealand Herald story will be only fuel to the fire to those people, who seek cheap thrills that make them feel important for a day or so.

It's hard to understand why Johnson has been bothering to read them, but it's good he has stopped. It was a lose-lose situation. There will still be plenty of ways to interact with his real fans: at Mt Smart Stadium every second week, at the numerous charity and community events the Warriors undertake and at club membership functions. Plus via traditional media.

And, when all is said and done, who really cares what @league_hater thinks? Or what @used_to_have_a_life posts? Or how many negative things @lonesome_loser says?

No matter how personal, or vicious the comments are, they are not coming from anyone important. They don't matter. Imagine if Barack Obama, John Key or even Donald Trump took time to read the negative messages that came their way. They would never get anything done.

And that is the other element to all this. What do Richie McCaw, Brendon McCullum and Simon Mannering have in common? All are high achievers, national captains, and all avoid social media (yes, Richie has finally relented, but that was after he had got through 130-odd test matches). That might also reflect their personalities, but it's all about focus.

It's hard to see how spending tons of time on social media has any social, personal or public value (unless you work in e-commerce) and never trumps any experience in real life.

Enjoy the break, Shaun.

- NZ Herald

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