I can’t quite recall when I entered into the world of social media. In some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday, in others it feels like it was a lifetime ago. It is safe to say, I have a very strange relationship with social media. I am going to attempt to articulate it in this blog.
I delved into the world of coach education around 10 years ago. I found myself in the strange situation of sitting in hotel rooms by myself for nights on end. When I travelled as a coach, I always had the company of other coaches so this was a very new experience for me. I was bored beyond belief and someone suggested I get into Facebook. I recall having a Bebo account and didn’t get much out of it. When I asked what Facebook was all about, the response was straight to the point. It had a chat function so you could chat to your pals without using up your texts on your phone contract. Before you know it, I was addicted to social media.
I say addicted, in all honesty, it was more of a habit than an addiction but what a habit it became. I recall getting home from trips and sitting in my study chatting to people when my wife was in the next room. When I think back to these times, it almost makes me feel sick to my stomach. As much as it was nice catch up with old school and tennis friends, I was not socialising with the love of my life, who was about 20 feet away.
I then created a tennis forum called The Service Box Tennis Forum. This was great in many ways. I am naturally a curious person and have always asked a lot of questions. To start with, this was great as I very rarely gave my opinion but would ask coaches tennis questions. The page quickly gathered momentum and before you know it, there were quite a few coaches involved.
Unfortunately, things took an unfortunate twist when I started getting involved in some serious disagreements with certain people in the tennis world. As well as being curious, I am also very stubborn. It is safe to say, my ‘style’ on social media is not for everyone. I tend to ask reflective questions over and over. This can come across as antagonistic and I can understand why some people lost their shit with me.
I remember the day when I deactivated the tennis forum. I received so many messages from coaches asking why I had done it. In some way, it was quite nice they had enjoyed the forum so much, but in another I was disturbed by how personally they took it. I then switched off my Facebook account for 18 months. When I think back, I did not miss it one tiny bit.
I can’t remember why I created a new Facebook account. I am guessing it was to help promote my business. I created a business page under my business name of The Service Box Ltd and quickly started engaging with coaches again. This time, I promised myself it would be a healthy place for any tennis enthusiast. Only respectful conversation allowed and everyone was welcome. I am pleased it is still that way.
My next hiccup arrived when I joined other tennis forum groups. Before you know it, I was back to being involved in pointless debates that would go on forever. I would, regularly, receive messages from my peers asking why I wasted my time doing this. To this day, I still don’t know the answer to that. Perhaps, there was a delusion I would help change their minds. This escalated to the point where I was receiving abusive private messages with the worst one threatening to ‘end me and my family’. It was time to take perspective again. Get out!!
In these years, Facebook exploded into one of the biggest companies in the world. It has completely changed since those early days and it is now, dare I say it, a virtual fantasy. I use the world deliberately. Facebook, is in no way, shape or form, a representation of society, reality or me.
I guess, this is the crux of my message. My social media ‘presence’ is fairly strong. It has really become apparent there are some who are, falsely, perceiving me based on my social media activity. So, the reason for this blog is to clear up some myths….
I have always loved to connect and help people. This is the sole reason I continue with social media. It provides me with a platform to help people in some tiny way. Whether that be with my podcast, videos or blogs. If I did not have this desire to contribute or help then, there is zero doubt, I would not have any social media accounts.
I understand why some would think I am trying to gather followers, likes and views but, for me, it is not about the numbers, it is about trying to contribute in a positive way to the profession I love.
I have made some great friends and connections through social media. On the flip side, I have also rubbed some people up the wrong way. I have made many mistakes. I have pushed peoples buttons and I am not proud. I have had a reputation of being the person in the room who says what everyone else is thinking. I have carried this across to social media and have crossed the line on many occasions.
So, after lots of reflection, I have decided to curb my social media activity. I love the process of producing content so I will continue to release the podcast, make videos and write blogs. I will no longer get embroiled in pointless debates. If I feel there can be healthy, productive conversation, I am all in.
I refuse to be defined as a person by the fantasy world of social media. I am a normal person, a husband, father, friend and colleague. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now for the irony, yes, you are more than likely reading this through a social media platform. I get the hypocrisy but am hoping this will be a pivotal moment in the readdressing the balance between the perception of me through social media and the reality of me as a person.
Thank you for reading.