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  • Colin Jonov

Social Media’s Playbook: How to Navigate Online Noise

The Dunning-Kruger effect might not be more prevalent than in the world of sports. Every single week, the media and the world of social media tear apart collegiate and professional athletes. I used to frequently take part in this activity when I was younger. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized how insecure I once was. It’s easy to be the critic. However, it’s not about the critic. It’s about the man in the arena.

Unfortunately, we live in an era dominated by social media and technology. Conversations that used to be held behind closed doors are now displayed on online platforms for everyone to see. Athletes used to only worry about criticisms from their coaches and the occasional journalist who landed a story on the front page. Now, everyone’s opinion can be seen. It’s easy for critics to sit on their couches and tell an athlete how to perform or how to handle the pressure of the media. My question for them is: how would you manage the pressure of thousands, even millions, scrutinizing your every move? Athletes have nowhere to escape. We give them the platform to market themselves and then use that same platform to tear them down. We say “ignore the noise” as if it’s that simple. When they fight back and stand up for themselves, we tell them they’re soft and can’t handle it. Really? How about we look ourselves in the mirror and truly ask ourselves if we could do better? I’ll save you the time: you can’t. It gets exhausting watching Twitter GMs and HCs talk as if they have the first clue about what these guys are going through. Maybe it’s time we start cutting these guys some slack?

Athletes, I wouldn’t bet on the above coming to fruition, so let’s take matters into our own hands. It’s time to curate the noise to work in our favor. First and foremost, take control of your social media. Just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t mean you need to see it. It may seem simple, but optimize the mute and block buttons. It’s easy to get caught in a rabbit hole of reading comments, threads, and DMs designed to tear us or people we care about down. Begin eliminating the negative from your timeline. If it’s not adding benefit to your life, remove it. Net negative and net zero accounts should be unfollowed, muted, or blocked. Only keep accounts on your timeline that are net-positives. Find things that truly add benefit to your life. Now, I do challenge you to be open to some criticism. There’s no growth without constructive criticism. It’s critical to limit who you hear that criticism from, however. Keyboard warriors don’t deserve the time of day. If you wouldn’t ask that person for advice, don’t pay their opinion any mind, whether it’s good or bad.

Next, when you come across people you trust and respect, when they say something you don’t like, find the truth in it. When they say something you like, find the lie in it. We are creatures of growth; learn to harness it. Whether we perform at our best or worst, we can always improve. Detach yourself from the outcome and focus on taking things one step at a time. With this mindset, criticisms from others will bounce off. Committing to growth minimizes the impact of short-term volatility in our performances.

Lastly, set your own standards. When we create our standards of who we want to be and who we are, outside opinions hurt less. Today, many athletes are insecure. I would know. I was once one of them. The problem is that many of us lack the fortitude necessary to weather the ups and downs. The best way to achieve that fortitude is by defining our own identity. Set the standards by which you want to live your life, both inside and outside of sports, and then live by them. Walk the walk and accept nothing less from yourself or from those around you. By doing so, you control your own narrative. Many have reached out to me recently struggling with the challenge of blocking out the noise. Our urge to fit in and be praised often trumps our desire to satisfy ourselves. My advice is consistent: define your self-culture in every aspect of your life. Exclude those who don’t meet your standards and live out your values. Have a zero tolerance policy. Doing so makes “ignoring the noise” much easier.

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