The amount of scorn and criticism directed at professional athletes can make any ordinary person in their position weak in the knees. From call-in radio shows, newspaper reporters and television pundits, the Monday morning “armchair quarterbacking” that ensues every weekend during the football season is impossible to escape. No athlete is immune from its path after a poor performance on the field. No coach can deflect the breakdown and questioning of every decision they made over the course of a game.
This defacto industry-standard of pure, unadultered wrath by the fans and the media alike, while at times can definitely cross the line into absurdism, still is typically met by silence of the athletes under the microscope. Other than possibly vague, cliche soundbites at a post-game press conference, these professional sports stars brush off the latest round of scrutiny and go about their business. While op-ed pieces appear daily in the industry rags about them, it is ridiculously rare to see any rebuttal by the athlete themselves about the issue at hand. In fact, most claim they don’t even read them, let alone consider a response. The best way to combat criticism, in their eyes, is to do the best job they can – by going out the next day and knocking one out of the park.
This is how most professionals in any field deal with criticism. Anyone secure in the fact that they are qualified and competent in their job don’t waste their time rebutting any and all perceived questioning of their abilities. Especially from those outside of their corportate environment, those not privy to the inner workings of their business, or those so low down the totem-pole professionally whose expertise in the matter is suspect at best. The only person’s opinion that really counts is the one who signs your paycheck.
When was the last time you saw the CEO of a Fortune 500 company personally rebut a forum post in the deep depths of the internet written about their qualifications as a leader?
When was the last time you’ve seen a Nobel prize-winning scientist argue the finer points of his thesis with an random stranger not even qualified to understand it in the first place?
When was the last time you’ve seen an Oscar award-winning actress go on the Tonight Show and call out a specific film critic for an unsubstantiated, misguidedly poor review?
Last week, the social media industry’s echo chamber was up in arms over a piece “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25” published in the fairly off-the-radar Nextgen Journal blog. Spurring over 5000 Facebook shares, nearly 1000 tweets and 500 comments plus both a response by the blog’s editor-in-chief as well as a counterpoint piece, the amount of vitriol directed towards its author, Cathryn Sloane, recent graduate of the University of Iowa was astonishing, even in this day and age of anonymous internet trolls.
Read the comments on her post. If you don’t feel like taking upwards of two hours to peruse through the petulant remarks, don’t worry because I have. While there were, in fact, many well thought-out and respectful disagreements with the author’s point of view, a significant bulk, however, were unabashed bouts of immature, insecure retorts that people would have been ashamed to say if in-person confronting her.
Who were the people perpertrating this dissenting opinion in such a way? Social media managers and other “professionals” within the industry themselves. As Patrick O’Keefe commented on this behavior:
How are you going to demonstrate that being a “social media manager” requires some delicate, mature, experienced touch if you leave comments that are condescending and immature?
I’ll be the first one to say that Cathyrn Sloane’s piece was poorly written, smacks heavily of unjust entitlement and is, in fact, a wrongful and naive assessment of the true scope of a professional’s skill set in managing a brand’s social media presence. Although I’ve never met her in my life, I’ll also say that like many instances of a millenial under–25 stereotype, she’s probably a spoiled twat who thinks she knows everything. Sure, that may be a harsh assessment, but the commenters on that article will surely agree with that sentiment based on their tone and message.
If that’s the case, though, and she has limited to no experience and influence in the industry, is not in the position to effect any standard practices or strategic viewpoints, then the question remains: Who gives a shit what she thinks? What does it matter?
From the second the article was published, the lynch mob came out in full effect as if she was attacking some of these social media “professionals” (quotes intentional) personally on their qualifications, most of whom were over the age of 25. While many will adamantly say they were just trying to “extend the dialogue” or “engage in discourse”, it’s quite apparently obvious that the core function of the rebuttal was to essentially state “Look here, Missy. I’m better than you and here’s why.”
Many of the comments on this article start off with “I have been doing this for X years for Y companies. I’ve done A, B and C. I have X number of Twitter followers and was on Y platform before you were born.” Some even dug up research on the author, social media profiles, personal records and tweets in the efforts to patentedly throw it in her face to disavow and discredit any notion she’s qualified for a social media position.
The funny part, though, was many of the aforementioned arguments on her lack of qualifications go directly against much of the social media “thought leadership” that is parrotted in the industry.
You will tell brands that follower counts and the number of “likes” don’t matter compared to quality engagement, yet scold Cathryn that her paltry 93 followers compared to your mega 11,000 count proves your superiority in the matter.
You will tell brands to have specific crisis management guidelines, many times purposely not quick and rash, many times handled delicately as a united front, yet scold Cathryn for not engaging in comments and even criticise NextGen for issuing a calculated response and clarification by the editor-in-chief the following day.
If anything, the commenters are at best, hypocritical. At worst, they’ve shown to not really be as qualified at their jobs as they thought to begin with. Combine that with the incessant need to bark out a resume and go overkill to prove their prowess over a naive and misguided no-one, the comments reek of a hearty dose of insecurity.
In the same way a 9 year-old bully picks on the weakest kid at the playground, the easiest way to boost yourself up is by vigilantly putting others down. And this is what happens a hell of a lot in the social media industry. So many posts about what other people are doing wrong and not enough people just doing it right.
For all the social media folk out there (frankly, the only ones who would give a damn about this blog post anyways), if you were truly a professional at what you do, why not do what most professional athletes do on a regular basis? Shut the fuck up and do your job. Do it well. Do it very well. No amount of criticism by any number of two-bit third parties can refute your own positive results.
The head coach doesn’t take out a winning quarterback because of some idiot column printed in the paper. In fact, he probably doesn’t even read it to begin with. He just sees that with you in there, the wins keep racking up. That’s all that matters. So, why should you care what anyone else says? So much so you’ll comment, tweet and write posts about it? You shouldn’t.
That is, unless deep down inside, you know it’s true. Or that you’d rather not have the spotlight be put on your own results, so instead of highlighting your wins, you attack other people’s defeats. True professionals don’t do this. Amateurs do.