Reasons for toxicity among figure skating fans

Flying Feijoa

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I feel like the figure skating fandom is getting pretty extreme, in a not-so-nice sense. Certain fans (maybe a minority, but very vocal) will abuse and insult skaters, officials, commentators and each other, start flame wars, even send death threats (like in last year's Lim/Bell thing).

Most of this activity is online but occasionally manifests itself in person, like the signs and graffiti at the GPF which were mentioned earlier today. This is a little worrying, and I really hope it isn't the start of a slippery slope. In the world outside skating, when people start to follow up their online vitriol with physical actions, stuff like terrorism happens. Of course words alone aren't benign either - I guess that's why comments on the JGP Youtube videos are now disabled, to protect kids from the psychological impact of verbal abuse.

Pretty much the only other sports fanbase that I've seen to exhibit such crazy tribalism is football. However, figure skating fans tend not to be drunk while spectating, so what other reasons might be contributing to the nastiness of their behaviour? And most importantly, is the situation fixable?

I thought of a few:
-Rise of social media over the last decade (can comment anonymously with little accountability + creates 'echo chambers')
-Rise of streaming/video-sharing sites as opposed to television channels for viewing (same reason as above)
-Inherent characteristics of a sport that is subjective/performance-based (can argue about judging) and individual (attacks become personal)
-Recent technical changes (e.g. top-down: judging system/programme requirements, bottom-up: the revolution-of-revolutions in men and women's events) resulting in less consistency in terms of who wins which year
-Most fans don't skate

A caveat is that I only started skating/following figure skating around 2014, so I'm not sure if it's always been the case or if it's a more recent trend. Would anyone with a longer history of watching figure skating be able to offer any insight into this?
 

skatefan17

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What confuses me is how the majority of opinions I see online always favor the one favored to win, like Hanyu or Alina. Hanyu fans scare me. While this thread topic is definitely interesting, I think we’d all go crazy trying to figure out why figure skating causes such convulsions of the brain. 😩
 

Harriet

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I guess that's why comments on the JGP Youtube videos are now disabled, to protect kids from the psychological impact of verbal abuse.

That's a YouTube requirement, not an ISU choice, as the videos feature minors.

I thought of a few

Add egotism, arrogance, entitlement, conviction of own technical and moral superiority/rightness, and performing for/preening in front of a crowd onto the list. In other words, figure skating fandom now has antis.
 

Amei

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What confuses me is how the majority of opinions I see online always favor the one favored to win, like Hanyu or Alina. Hanyu fans scare me. While this thread topic is definitely interesting, I think we’d all go crazy trying to figure out why figure skating causes such convulsions of the brain. ��

1 of my favorite writers (Jen Lancaster - in case anyone's interested and wants to check out her books) writes books with a comedic flair about her life and she goes off on these rants/tangents and her husband always asks her 'what's my rule' and her reply is "I don't engage the crazy" :) That's smart advice everybody - don't engage the crazy
 

zanadude

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People are people, and being 100% positive all the time is quite tiring.
 

anonymoose_au

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People are people, and being 100% positive all the time is quite tiring.

Except this goes beyond not been positive. Like I've been upset with how T/M, Sofia Samodourva, Nastya T and (to a lesser extent) Liza have been treated this season, but I'd never attack their competitors or the judges for it. I might side-eye a judging decision and wonder what they saw that I didn't, but some fans are accusing judges of all sorts of things. And some fans talk about their non-favourites as if they can't stand up straight in an ice rink rather than being elite athletes.

It's OK to say "Dang, I really wanted so-and-so to win, this is so disappointing! I really thought they skated well!"

It's not OK to say "So-and-so only lost because the other guy has a stronger fed, they don't have any talent or ability whatsoever. This is a conspiracy, I'm gonna slash the judges tyres/flood social media with complaints/boo when the other guy gets their gold medal."
 

casualFSfan

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Thank you for posting this.

I was a huge figure skating fan during Michelle Kwan’s era. When she was beaten by Tara Lipinski in the olympics, I was gutted. But Tara won fair and square. On that day, she outperformed Michelle, as the judges decided. Many disagreed, but we can’t change the outcome. I don’t recall it getting to the level that I’ve witnessed in recent years- with Yuna/Adelina, Bell/Lim, and of course, Chen/Hanyu.

Some fans are becoming more emboldened to spew their hatred, creating conspiracy theories, flooding the social media accounts of skaters they believe is a threat, an unworthy winner, or really for any perceived slight against their favorite, with the worst comments towards not just the skater but their family.

Can you imagine pouring your heart and soul into a program, and then being told that it was all garbage?

Every single competition is now picked apart. Every jump, spin, height, transition, even reactions in the kiss and cry. It’s disheartening.

These skaters are real people. They work hard, they train for countless hours, they’ve sacrificed so much to get to where they are now. They don’t deserve this treatment.

We are but spectators of this beautiful sport. To me, bring a fan means that we support them on their journey, win or lose.

We all have our own taste in what we like in a skater. There are so many out there, shouldn’t it be a good thing that we have options? It’s a subjective sport, so no fan should be told that their favorite isn’t deserving... that’s not for anyone to decide.

I’m genuinely fearful for the safety of skaters who’ve received so much hate. In this day and age, just not responding to a catcall in the street can result in assault over the “rejection”.

I hope these incidents get addressed by the ISU/ federations because it’s getting out of hand, and it’s not going to stop.
 

silverfoxes

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Pretty much the only other sports fanbase that I've seen to exhibit such crazy tribalism is football. However, figure skating fans tend not to be drunk while spectating, so what other reasons might be contributing to the nastiness of their behaviour? And most importantly, is the situation fixable?

I thought of a few:
-Rise of social media over the last decade (can comment anonymously with little accountability + creates 'echo chambers')
-Rise of streaming/video-sharing sites as opposed to television channels for viewing (same reason as above)
-Inherent characteristics of a sport that is subjective/performance-based (can argue about judging) and individual (attacks become personal)
-Recent technical changes (e.g. top-down: judging system/programme requirements, bottom-up: the revolution-of-revolutions in men and women's events) resulting in less consistency in terms of who wins which year
-Most fans don't skate

I agree with some of your points, but not so much the last one...why would that be a factor? Dave Lease skates and he's about as toxic as you can get. And this is the sport that begat Tonya Harding, after all. And some pretty bitter rivalries (Plush/Yags, Johnny/Evan, etc.)

People spend more time online these days than ever before, and I think that it absolutely has an impact on mental health. Fandom is probably very seductive to those who don't have healthy real life social connections, especially young people. FS fandom is just one variety and probably far from the most toxic...but it's still pretty horrific at times. I don't honestly know what the answer is. The people who really ought to take a hard look at their behavior are not going to be receptive to change. They probably need some kind of real-life intervention and who knows if they'll ever get it. I guess I'd start by making sure that the skaters themselves are well educated on how to deal w/cyberbullying and social media in general. You can never protect them 100% from all the ugliness on the internet, but at least they should know how to tune out the noise when necessary and block/report the really bad stuff.
 

waltzjump2

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I think certain groups of fans breed a kind of fanaticism that encourages itself and leads that group into thinking that highly disrespectful conduct is completely OK. And these people can feed on somewhat legitimate arguments but run them into the ground supporting their skater or nation or coach or whatever. It’s really unfortunate because it makes everything so much less enjoyable and hurts athletes who are 0% to fault.
 

DenissVFan

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It doesn't help that somebody as important in the sport as Yagudin conducts himself in a similar fashion (see his recent stab at Jason on his IG).
 

lappo

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Toxicity in fandoms is a tale as old as times...if you search for "agonistic defixiones" you will find that Romans used to write curses against athletes and chariot racing's horses on lead tablets that were buried on consacrated grounds for maximum cursing effect, wishing them death, injuries and all kind of personal problems (see for short here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_tablet)
That said, since we supposedly evolved from Roman times, fans should know better than sending death threats to judges and athletes (and their families), tagging them in very unpleasant posts on social media or displaying unsportmanlike behaviours, especially when the skaters themselves are real role-models in how they conduct themselves out there even in harsh times. Ultimately, we skating fans should remember that all skaters are barely teenagers and that behind their performances there are years of sacrifices (theirs and of their families); regardless of the outcome, we should appreciate that we are blessed with their performances.
 

heartyxo

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I think it depends on where you are, how toxic it is. Twitter sucks when it comes to figure skating.
I feel like a lot of it is just attacking skaters because they are a threat to your favorite and refusing to admit that they're just as good, a lot of the time. There's also a lot of people accusing skaters of being overmarked just because they personally don't like the program, which to me is just dumb.
 

Mishaminion

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Some people are just nasty, disrespectful and full of negativety.
The internet gives such people a perfect anonymous platform to behave like this hiding behind their keyboards and that's why it is so rampant.


The worrying thing is what has started to happen outside the internet, such as the defacing that wall of signatures after the mens or holding up disrespectful signs during the medal ceremony.

I'll never understand it...I love both Yuzu and Nathan, they were both incredible but Nathan had Yuzu thoroughly beat on the ice...and they have enormous respect for each other.

If fans really wanted to support their favourite, they would not do $%$@ like this, it can reflect badly on the skater themselves(the reputation for having a rabid nasty fanbase) , and that is very unfair.
 

katymay

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People are people, and being 100% positive all the time is quite tiring.

But what happened to the old rule that if you don't have something nice to say, say NOTHING? How hard is that really? The amount of stress and pressure a skater has when it is their turn to skate is HUGE, I think people who have never competed just don't realize how terrifying just this one thing is. Your heart is pounding, your legs feel wobbly and shaky, even if you are a novice lady. I wish people would have just some basic respect that skater A or B is out there, on their own, trying to do the best they can in front of half of the world.
And while the judging system isn't perfect, it is a heck of an improvement over what it used to be.
 

Ali81

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As Harry Styles so eloquently said - “Must get rid of toxic in the community “
 

onyxrose81

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I’ve stopped visiting this place and others online simply because the vitriol has gotten out of hand. It makes me not enjoy the skating as much so I simply watch the skating and don’t really have anything to do with online anymore. I lurked more obviously, hence my low posts but I don’t even do that much anymore. I have seen a lot of older posters not visit as much and I would guess it’s because of the same reasons.
 

Bcash

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Just as in many other sports, some fans project too much of themselves onto their favorites, hence the visceral reactions to varying results. It’s no longer about the skaters.
 

Manue93370

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All this is hopeless. We can be a fan, but we must respect the opponent. It is scary. Sometimes some fans totally lose their heads and forget that this is only sport. Remember a Steffi Graf fan stabbed Monica Seles to help Steffi become number one again
 

Mishaminion

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I’ve stopped visiting this place and others online simply because the vitriol has gotten out of hand. It makes me not enjoy the skating as much so I simply watch the skating and don’t really have anything to do with online anymore. I lurked more obviously, hence my low posts but I don’t even do that much anymore. I have seen a lot of older posters not visit as much and I would guess it’s because of the same reasons.

It is not toxic here but sometimes the complaining and negativity frustrates me.

It starts up even before the competitions are over, sometimes as soon as a skater steps off the ice.

It completely ruins the mood sometimes.

I have my favourites but if they do not win or medal I try to be positive, congratulate those who won/medaled and allow them and their fans to have their moment.

It's basic decency and respect IMO.
 
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