Though, funnily enough, Mark Zuckerberg and Nick Clegg aren’t fans of being likened to Big Tobacco, society is now properly waking up to the poison purposefully rolled into social media, keeping us all hooked.
But, like smoking, we’re still doing it, even though we know it’s harmful. I can quit any time I want. Just one more tweet.
Like smoking, we’re choosing to ignore the ugly truth about how bad social media can be for us because – though at times an undeniable cesspit – Twitter and Instagram and, God help me, even Facebook can be fun. Using them makes us feel cool. That warm, tingly dopamine glow of fleeting online fame is the new nicotine rush.
Once we’ve got a taste for it, every one of us craves and enjoys attention. We each want to be the main character. Blue ticks aside, we’re all equal on the internet; just humans. None of us are immune to the psychological power of social media, not even celebrities.
Should knights drop the F-bomb?
In the early hours of the morning, UK-time, after losing to German tennis player Alexander Zverev in the third round of the Indian Wells Masters, Sir Andy Murray did a very human thing. He tweeted a solitary expletive.
How you interpret that tweet depends entirely on you. To some, dropping the F-bomb under any circumstances is entirely unacceptable and vulgar. To others, it’s punctuation.
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) October 13, 2021
Some might find the social media post funny, and others sad. Personally, I’m intrigued by Murray’s decision to use a full stop. To me, he’s not shouting, just resignedly reacting. I can almost hear his sigh.
But, personally, I am not offended by the F-word. And, if the responses to Murray’s tweet are anything to go by, many people out there are.
A few followers on Twitter are deeply insulted by the tennis player’s use of a swear word. Several are concerned that, considering his large platform, the young people who look up to Murray will emulate his behaviour. There is suggestion that this tweet should have official, professional repercussions.
I agreed to adhere to my employer’s social media code of conduct when I signed my contract, but that covers things like racism and corruption. No one is monitoring my tweets to pull me up for swearing. Apart from my dad.
On Reddit, fans postulate that Andy knows what he is doing – that he likes to tease and ruffle the feathers of his straitlaced Twitter followers.
As many disgruntled tennis lovers pointed out, he is actually Sir Andy, recipient of an OBE. A knight. Would Lancelot tweet a bad word after a disappointing jousting defeat, even for a laugh?
Human first, sports personality second
The thing is, Murray has made himself unpopular for swearing before, in real life. Whether they approve or not, fans know and accept that he reacts explosively on the tennis court, to both wins and losses.
You could argue that a passionate outburst in the heat of the moment is worlds away from composing and publishing a tweet, but one word? That’s six, maybe seven strikes of the keyboard, from start to finish. A beat’s worth of phone tapping for a millennial like Murray.
Yes, after his urge for attention was sated, perhaps he could have or should have cleansed his timeline of the F-word. I’m glad he didn’t. To me, that feels disingenuous
Perhaps Sir Andy should have directed his frustrated message towards the lads in the group chat instead, but – operating as a human first and sports personality second – in that emotional moment, he wanted to share his feelings with all of us. He wanted his supporters to know that he tried his best. He wasn’t strolling away from defeat, arrogant and indifferent. He cared. He gave a f***.
And, yes, after his urge for attention was sated, perhaps he could have or should have cleansed his timeline of the F-word. I’m glad he didn’t. To me, that feels disingenuous.
Celebrities can’t win
For all its faults, part of why we like social media is that it gives us a direct line to the famous, powerful and talented people we admire. We love to interact with them and observe them going about their daily lives. Look: they’re just like us!
We like it when celebrities act like normal humans, then we berate them when they act like normal humans. They really can’t win and, honestly, if Andy Murray has reached the point of trolling as a result, I say play on.
Don’t forget, he received his knighthood in recognition of his services not just to tennis but also to charity. By all accounts, he’s an honourable person who happens to swear sometimes. Would it be so bad if young people considered old enough to be on Twitter want to emulate that?
Alex Watson is the Head of Comment for The Press & Journal and firmly believes that swearing is a sign of intelligence