Antisocial Media

Four days ago, The NY times reported that 20 year-old tennis player Rebecca Marino had overcome cyber-bullying and online harassment to return to professional tennis, making the WTA final in Memphis.

She acknowledged that it was often her own searching of online comments that hurt her. But what bothered her most were messages to her Twitter account sent by people who had lost money betting on her matches.

“They’ll say, ‘You gave that match away, you cost me such-and-such amount of money, you should go burn in hell,’ or ‘You should go die,’ ” Marino said. “And oh, my gosh, that is really scary.”

Today, she’s quitting again: Weary Marino Bids Farewell to WTA and Cyber-Bullies

Although she refused to call her decision a retirement, Marino’s tone and words indicated there was little chance of a return.

Marino also doubted she would ever return to social media after shutting down her Twitter and Facebook accounts on Tuesday before making her announcement.

“At this point I can’t really see myself going back onto social media but who knows,” said Marino. “I don’t really find it something I really need in my life at this moment.

“In a way I wish I hadn’t joined social media because of the criticism I received but I can’t really go about regretting what I’ve done.”

Having spent a lot of time on rec.sport.tennis, I know that even without the impetus of gambling, tennis fans develop outrageous likes and dislikes for players they barely know at all.

After Pete Sampras appeared very dehydrated, even threw up, then aced Albert Corretja in a US Open match, some fans accused him of playacting the “dying dog” and cheered his losses for years afterwards. Steffi Graf was admired for her forehand and her legs, but heckled over avoiding Catholic tithes. After Andre Agassi heckled an opponent’s errant ball toss in a windy match, he became the ugly American – until he won the French Open and the career slam. Martina Hingis was both admired and scorned for her prolific love life and comments she later denied about lesbian player Amelie Mauresmo being, “ein halber Mann.” But probably no one endured as much outright hatred as the Williams sisters and their father, who were black, poor, bucked both junior and professional tennis, but were successful anyway.

Having spent time online, I know that admitting that cyber-bullying bothers you is only asking for even more of it.

Update: More on Marino’s depression as a factor in her leaving tennis in the Straight Sets blog.

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