HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS STUNTING THE GROWTH OF HORSE RACING

By Hans Ebert
@hanseberthk

Recently, more and more people following the world of horse racing are taking sabbaticals from social media, mainly Twitter. Some never come back, Why? In order to return to the real world. Even with all its faults, it’s somewhere with small pockets of beauty and intelligence and the chance to escape from relentless stupidity, triviality and where the terminally needy have found somewhere to belong. Twitter is like an old Barbra Streisand song about people needing people. The difference is that it’s an often irrelevant world that doesn’t really exist nor brings us human beings closer together.

The problem with whether being on Twitter or Facebook is that many of these people who are part of this social media community- and usually hiding behind pseudonyms thinking they can’t be found out, and authorities on everything and everyone and damned be if one were to disagree with them- appear on your timeline, meaning one cannot help but read their Wikipedia knowledge and self obsessed tripe. This creates a chain reaction of negativity.

These days, with psychologists warning the world about the negative effects of social media- how it can cause stress, how it can add to stress, how it has created an addictive society, and change lives forever, why bother to continue flying close to the sun like Icarus?

It’s the reason why I escaped- for the third time-from the banality of Facebook, and recently closed down one of my Twitter accounts which was part of a blog started over twelve years ago to give horse racing a new, different and more independent voice compared to traditional racing media. But why bother? Where’s the beef? Where the moola? What’s the point in staying? For self-promotion? In horse racing? Please.

What many in horse racing on Twitter either fail or refuse to understand is knowing when to back off- knowing when they have crossed that line between engagement and disengagement, never think how their words in a public forum can create such anger from those being pummelled by nonsensical thinking and who have no choice but to confront these trolls in the real world. Having seen this happen, it’s both funny and scary. Suddenly, all that online bluster falls apart. What’s left is a scared little person back-peddling, cowering and begging for forgiveness. All this vitriol and hypocrisy is also hardly good for horse racing.

These are people who should be named, shamed, sued and sacked. If on Twitter, representing a company and resorting to angst and selective memory recall, it’s high time to also hold their employer’s culpable.

New online laws are coming on stream everyday as there’s a need for this free-for-all world to be policed and reined in. These delivery platforms will finally have to face the music, especially when it comes to libel, copyright laws, whatever constitutes defamation of character, mental abuse, and promoting databases that are inflated through the ease in which one can purchase followers- especially from Moldova, the Middle East and the Philippines.

Those early “settlers” and pioneers of Facebook like Sean Parker who helped Mark Zuckerberg start up the delivery platform are only now admitting that they helped create an addictive society. Thanks, Sean. Wait until the genie escapes and cannot be put back into the bottle before going, “Oooops, we goofed”.

This makes Sean Parker and the others who have joined The Let’s Repent Movement worse hypocrites than the amateur hypocrites and addicts one “meets” on social media. Block these irritants or mute them and, yes, they disappear from this fake world. But, why “live” in it and have to go through such angst- angst that robs you of quality time with real people whom you really care for and can meet face to face, cripples inter-personal skills, where online dating has killed off any sense of romance and many have lost track of life’s priorities.

Who except the truly desperate dullard goes to Tinder looking for love? Remember what falling in love felt like? We’re not only losing our “religion”, people, we’ve probably lost touch with reality and real emotions.

Though every industry has been tarred by the same social media brush with intelligence stunted to a level where many of us are slaves to technology and hashtags, let’s for the sake of what’s being written here stick to horse racing.

No matter what its supporters and leaders might think, horse racing doesn’t have a positive image. Remove the blinkers. Ask the big old world out there who don’t care about jockeys, horses and tipsters, and horse racing is an unnecessary evil that dangles illusions of false riches, and creates an addictive gambling society in the process.

Wives and girlfriends cannot understand why I bother with horse racing. Often, I ask myself the same question: What’s in it for me?

Only once all this is faced by those trying to take what many don’t consider to be a sport further can this perception of horse racing being a non-starter be finally tackled with absolute honesty. Add some random “place” like Twitter into the equation and horse racing becomes a non-stop onslaught of bad grammar, bad spelling and small people talking through their pockets and using the most vile language to mentally cripple those they blame for their losses. Always on their radars: jockeys. Yet these people profess to be racing fans. Then, there are the horses. Lose on them and they’re “cats” and “squibs” and worse. Bad news travels fast. Ignorance cripples even faster.

There are all manner of atrocities happening around the world, yet, someone like the person below saves their wrath for a jockey who’s risking life and limb to ride a winner and do the one thing they probably know how to do. And one wonders why the horse racing fraternity has lost so many to depression. What’s the solution? Tackle it headfirst and take no prisoners.

Imagine the very sad lives that these keyboard warriors must lead- sitting there alone in some pub every day with only alcohol for company and trolling through the online world trying to find places to park their warped thoughts and “engage” with others, usually to bash and slash, but, most of all, to belong. These are racing fans? And people wonder why on course attendances continue to go down that slippery slope? Who wants to be around toxicity?

Horse racing already has its problems trying to survive with a business model that dearly needs a good spring cleaning and makeover without so-called “social media” dragging it down to an even deeper abyss.

Horse racing needs to chill out and become fun again. It’s lost its sense of humour and ability to laugh at itself. Horse racing cannot continue being the Rodney Dangerfield of sports. But who’s going to change this picture? Old school racing writers who write tomes thinking that amidst the clutter of everything else going on, anyone will care? Racing writers who bite the hand that feeds them and have been dismissed for years as conniving pariahs who bring nothing positive to the table? Those trying to be seen as do-gooders, but who refuse to understand when they make the most mind numbingly dumb and hurtful comments on social media, but insist on arguing their case one way for the public to see, but send apologetic direct messages to try and sooth the situation? As there’s a need to keep up pretences, they keep up this false bravado for public consumption. It’s sickening.

Again, where do most of these hypocrites lie in wait? Guess and then wonder why. Why? Extremely poor leadership that’s dismissed by too many including those they profess to lead and important business partners.

Have these people travelled or lived in Hong Kong or Japan where the image of horse racing is very different and almost a protected species? Do these people understand the pride Japanese racing fans have in the sport- real fans with incredible respect for the riders, especially Yutake Take, below, who’s revered like some modern day samurai warrior?

There is then the passion of tens of thousands of Japanese racing fans who travel as cheerleaders with any horse from Japan taking their place in the Arc.

Do those who claim to be racing fans and racing writers, but bash the racing product whenever they can, understand how the magnificent superstar galloper Deep Impact is seen as a national treasure in Japan and guarded with all the security reserved for Fort Knox?

There’s a nobility and fierce nationalistic pride associated with horse racing in Japan. It’s never allowed to wander into the depths of a Twitter society with its constant handwringing by the usual suspects about the same old subjects.

Who actually knows how the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust works and gives back to the city? Who understands the benefits of having horse racing twice a week instead of an avalanche of gambling options 24/7?

Bottom line: Every industry owes itself to embrace a cause. In advertising, in music, we addressed this through PSA’s- Public Service Announcements.

Public Service campaigns made these industries likeable. They helped open doors that once were shut.

When did horse racing- on a global scale- create anything that might help and inspire the human race? The answer to this question is not that far fetched. Nor is it irrelevant. Horse racing needs to take a long hard look at itself and wonder why so many shy away from it- and bring those back who have tired of the sport or don’t see its long term future.

#horseracing #horseracingindustry #socialmedia #twitter #facebook #addictivesociety #seanparker #markzuckerberg #publicserviceannouncements #twittertrolls

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