“I have my own ecosystem.”
- One of LeBron’s teammates, after being asked about James’ Twitter habits.
It was bound to happen.
Last week my phone buzzed as I was watching, eyes glazed over, to see if the icon for my outdated TV would hit the corner as it bounced around the screen-saver (I am pleased to report that I witnessed said occurrence). I picked up my phone and saw an ESPN news alert, making sure I was aware of the fact that LeBron unfollowed the Cavaliers’ Twitter and Instagram pages, and that he was dodging the question when asked why he did so.
I have become numb to the surplus of unimportant news that ESPN decides to relay through their mobile app and on their website; but before I completely shunned the thought, I pulled my phone back out, and tried to fathom why ESPN would be chasing such a lead.
Confusion and frustration.
It wasn’t the first time that ESPN manufactured some gotcha journalism to make a headline pop, though, so I thought nothing more of it in order to continue my productive day watching the screen-saver.
Yet the story didn’t stop there.
The next day, Dave McMenamin, ESPN’s “LeBron Whisperer”, shared with us the true reason of LeBron’s unspeakable act:
In an attempt to block out the unrelenting voice of the media during the final stretch of the regular season, and heading into the postseason, LeBron unfollowed the team’s social media pages.
Now we will know how LeBron did it when he drags the rest of his cohorts to an inevitable repeat of last year’s Finals.
LeBron ended up balking on his promise to swear off social media by re-following the Cavs’ Instagram, saying in a tweet that:
Think I just may join the Snap this week. Another way for my fans to ride with me throughout my journey
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 22, 2016
McMenamin also drops some more juicy gossip for all of the LeBron fanatics, claiming that LeBron “changed up his pregame routine for the Nuggets game by listening to music while wearing headphones instead of playing it on his speaker system for everyone in the locker room to hear.”
This all comes after McMenamin posted an article about the significance of LeBron’s social media presence the week before. In the article, McMenamin takes a critical look into why LeBron and his tweets garner so much attention: “because we’re a curious people who listen to “Serial” and binge watch “Making a Murderer” and have a desire to decode.”
Or, Dave, it’s because the majority of the news that ESPN posts is a recap of what a certain athlete’s last tweet was, and it leaves the reader to create their own theories – ESPN did not supply anything of substance on their own.
Three days after LeBron unfollowed the Cavs, ESPN’s former LeBron guru, Brian Windhorst, argued that this display by LeBron makes him look like a bad leader:
I actually agree with him: LeBron’s giant social media presence affects a lot of people in his circle, including his teammates, so it’s unfair for him to unfollow the Cavs and have the rest of the team answer for his actions.
Brian Windhorst may be completely in the right here, but he shouldn’t be.
Which brings me to the whole point of the article.
Social media has usurped reality. Anything a person, famous or not, says on Twitter or Instagram is more influential than something they say in real life.
Maybe it happened a while ago, I don’t know. This is coming from a guy who doesn’t have an Instagram account, hasn’t been on Twitter since I first set my account up, and won’t post anything to Facebook unless I’m thanking the tens of people who wished me a happy birthday on my wall.
It’s the age we live in, and sure, it has its benefits. You can have a meaningful conversation with a celebrity you idolize – if they deem your comment worthy enough to respond. Hell, you can break up with your significant other by texting them. You’d be a dick to do it, but hey, you’re the ‘bad guy’ anyways, so why not?
The fact is that it’s still alarming that a person is taken more seriously when they type something than when they say the same thing in person.
It doesn’t even have to be an original post, nor a comment that directly involves dialogue: LeBron James could retweet a post from Dwayne Wade, and the talks of how he wants to ditch Cleveland (again) to play with his buddy appear on all the sports blogs.
Why do the actions of an athlete of LeBron’s stature on social media dictate how capable of a leader they are? When an athlete posts something controversial I understand, but when its something as insignificant as unfollowing a feed, even if its your own team’s page, why should that trump how an athlete interacts with the media in a press conference or how they talk to their teammates in practice or in a game?
When someone says ‘lead by example,’ are we supposed to analyze every example that a person leaves behind and critique him or her when we don’t find it to be satisfactory? Or should we sift through the hundreds of quotes and actions an athlete puts out every year and analyze the highlights from this data? Or should we make our judgments based on the material that matters instead of whether or not the athlete approves of Kanye’s new album?
So Bron Bron: when are you gonna review the Life of Pablo?