GAA Football

Kicking Out: Social media detox a no-brainer

Ireland rugby international Jacob Stockdale revealed at the weekend that he had quit Twitter eight months ago, having been caught up in a world that was pulling him down.

THE sounds of summer have never been clearer, and never been more lost.

Every morning and evening, you can hear the birds singing away to themselves. Their voices have never seemed so loud.

Tractors growl up and down the roads around us. The lawnmowers haven’t stopped in weeks.

The chit-chat of walkers meeting on opposite sides, staying their distance.

Cyclists zooming past, Daddy on the outside lane as wee Mary pedals furiously up the gradient.

The colour of the leaves and the flowers seem more vibrant. Everyone’s gardening. The bees buzz endlessly.

Time has never moved as slowly. Every day seems the same.

And yet life seems to have slowed to a leisurely pace. It’s simpler.

Maybe it’s just the sun talking, and furlough.

The best thing I’ve done in this furlough period was a Twitter detox.

I went from constantly scrolling to deleting the app on my phone, and checking in once or twice a day.

Very quickly you realise that nobody cares if you’re there or not.

And it was actually a liberation. Instead of spending half the day with your head in a phone, you go and do other things.

Being housebound on a working day, and hampered by a hernia, there are times my step count for a day would barely be 5,000.

During furlough, I was hitting between 15,000 and 20,000 steps every day.

It felt great.

By leaving a world you think you’re engaging with, you actually find yourself back living in the real world.

It was interesting to read at the weekend that Irish international Jacob Stockdale quit Twitter, having found himself completely bogged down in it.

The first game he played for Ulster after the 2019 World Cup was against Munster in Thomond Park.

“I didn't have a great game. I got into the changing room and the first thing I did, before I had even texted my parents or my girlfriend, I went onto Twitter to see what people were saying about me,” he told the Irish Independent.

"It was phenomenally unhealthy. I just decided, 'Nah, I am done with this.' I realised I was basing my own performances off people who didn't know about rugby as much as I did.

"I could come out of a game and feel like I had a decent game, but I would see ten people on Twitter saying, 'Jacob Stockdale was c**p today.'

"Suddenly I would be like, 'Actually, yeah they're right, I didn't play well'. I was letting them dictate how I felt.”

It is a toxic environment for anyone of any sporting profile to be in.

It’s funny, when I think of people who take a battering on social media, Dick Clerkin is often the first man comes to mind.

Dick and I have had a few disagreements on the platform, though I’m sure he’d feel the same as myself, that they’ve never crossed a line.

When he made his infamous comments last January about the legitimacy of having children at All-Ireland finals, I texted him to see if he’d allow me to further challenge his theory in The Irish News.

He declined, and said he felt the storm would have blown over in a day or two.

The comments have stuck to him like glue.

Combined with his various defences of GAA policy, he’s become a Twitter piñata.

Now, no matter what he says on any topic, his words are thrown back at him.

Dick: “The sky is blue.”

@AnonymousMan: “Tell that to the 8-year-olds.”

We're diametrically opposed on many issues and I’m sure he doesn’t much care for me, but I thought he laid out the GAA’s position very well on Sunday night.

I happen to be in favour of how they have dealt with the situation, although it probably is time to re-open pitches at this stage.

The calculated, methodical approach may not please everyone but the GAA haven’t got it too far wrong so far.

Still, he gets abuse just because it’s handy likes for someone.

I often wonder why he bothers.

Truthfully, I’m not sure why anybody in sport bothers.

It is seldom anything other than a crucible of negativity and criticism, much of it personal.

After matches, it can be nothing short of cruel.

Referees would be wiser away from it too.

When Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee spoke candidly to The Irish News last winter, he delved into the topic.

“You go and play for Tyrone, you always wanted to, nothing else. But the s**** you listen to for trying hard, for actually trying. You’d swear you were going out at times to f*** stuff up.

“People are so fickle and narrow-minded. They’d hang you on one or two things when they know nothing about you.

“See on social media, you can be hung, drawn and quartered. It takes an awful lot not to get sucked into not letting people chat s***.

“I’d rarely be tagged in it but there’s plenty of times it’s brought to your attention. You learn, the older you get, the easier it is to cope with.

“If I was a young player coming in, listening to the s**** that people have to say sometimes, you’d do well to hold your tongue.”

He talked about being out with Cathal McShane the night that a punter walked into the chip shop, put out his hand for McShane to shake and then pulled it away again, walking off laughing like the big man.

“It shows you the immaturity of people. To get a lock of likes. That’s all it was for, ‘imagine this video on Instagram or Twitter, it’d be class’,” said McNamee.

There’s nothing to be gained from scrolling all day.

Delete the app.

Put the phone down.

Find something else to do.

Ring a friend.

Take in the sounds of summer.

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