Reasons for toxicity among figure skating fans

alvaro808

Spectator
Joined
Dec 8, 2019
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?



It's unfortunate that this kind of behavior appears in real life, but figure skating events are far from the only places where people have been manifesting what we deem to be "toxic" behavior. It's happening all over the place, and in my opinion, reflects a certain breakdown of civility that the Internet - arguably - has contributed towards.

I agree with many of the points you raised. The Internet can enable people who would otherwise be much more reticent to display toxic or aggressive behavior to do so behind the comfort of an anonymous username. But at the same time, it has also enabled others to speak more freely or openly because they are not being forced to use their real names.

It goes both ways.

Incivility did not begin with the Internet and especially social media, but it has increased in recent years, and I always find that to be sad. This is why I believe it takes courage to use your real name online because in doing so, you are taking a lot of risks. And this is also why I don't blame people for taking breaks from the Internet or going offline completely to focus on their "real lives." Considering the way people can behave online, I can totally understand that.


But for my own part, I try my best to be as polite and respectful as I can. And if people want to behave like toxic jerks - online or offline - I simply ignore them. And take all the steps that I need to to protect myself.


That's all you can do.

Aloha =D
 

lariko

Medalist
Joined
Jan 31, 2019
Country
Canada
Figure skating being an artistic hybrid with athletic event where our chance to see an athlete depends on their rank, practiced by beautiful people, creates a hotbed of the popularity contest, and fuels social media. There is a reason why in kindergarten they give participation ribbons.

I applaud the move towards the logic and transparency in scoring, but the GoE and PCS are still a black box and very much open to interpretation by the spectators. And where there is subjectivity, there are emotions. And where there are emotions, there is a choice to excersise self-control or not, consider the feelings of others or not, take a dig or choose neutral expression or keep mum.

People tend to like reading scathing commentary when they agree with it, but be offended by it when they disagree. The instinct is to fight back against a perceived injustice.

A fight requires two fools — internet allows an easier retreat from a fight. Block, ignore, leave, talk to people who agree with you. And report any content that seem to move towards the intent to harm.
 

noskates

Record Breaker
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
Social media has allowed people to say anything about anything to anyone without fear of reprisal. I've noticed many take out their frustrations online. The skating world isn't immune from this. Add the nationalism that comes from multi-nation competition and you get quite a melting pot of criticism sometimes. You have to remember this board is posted in English and sometimes non-English speaking posters can type one thing and mean another completely different thought. I've been to many competitions and sat next to Canadians and Russians and French, et, al. and never heard bitter criticisms and nasty remarks from anybody in a live situation. So - I pick and choose what I read here or elsewhere and acknowledge that the majority of posters are well-meaning. I'd rather focus on the good comments and ignore the ones that aren't.
 

Tavi...

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 10, 2014
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.

I guess it all depends on how you define toxic. If by toxic you mean only making death threats or defacing property, then no, this forum isn’t toxic.

But if you define toxic as I do - as a poisonous atmosphere where people frequently attack each other or particular skaters or ideas they don’t like - then I do feel that many parts of this forum have become toxic. The mods do what they can, but it must be a pretty overwhelming job.

As to why it’s happening, in addition to the fact that anonymity emboldens some people to say things and treat others in ways they probably wouldn’t in real life, the world we live in has become increasingly polarized. It’s no longer uncommon for people who don’t like an idea or a fact to simply deny it, call it “fake news” or “a conspiracy,” or try to drown it out by loudly and repeatedly proclaiming their own points of view. Increasingly, some will resort to death threats and actual violence. So it’s hardly surprising to see these things reflected here and in the FS fandom at large. It makes me sad, but unless each of us consciously chooses to reject these new “norms” and act differently, I don’t know what the solution is.

As to perceived “negativity,” I personally think everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but that they should be respectfully expressed.
 

Flying Feijoa

On the Ice
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
Country
New-Zealand
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.

Some really good points there. That's interesting, I didn't know Dave Lease skated. I was thinking more of the recent noise being made on Youtube/Facebook/Twitter about pre-rotated jumps (which is sort of valid criticism for flip/lutz but not really for salchows and toeloops). Not to say that people can't critique without first-hand experience (skating is already exclusive enough), but if they do they should at least invest time into checking the facts.

In the case of Tonya, Plush/Yagudin etc., obviously the athletes themselves aren't wholly innocent, but I wonder if the bitterness was partly influenced by the media playing up the rivalry and feeding/rewarding this unhealthy mindset. Thankfully today's skaters themselves exhibit pretty good sportsmanship, regardless of their "fans'" behaviour!

Looking at the thread responses, it does seem that internet etiquette/a wider societal change in the political climate has a lot of impact. Agree strongly with the education of skaters on mental health and social media, especially as they're getting subject to international fame at increasingly younger ages. Perhaps national feds/the ISU could take some initiative on this!
 

hanyuufan5

❅*:・。.✨
Medalist
Joined
May 19, 2018
I really hate the word "toxicity," because it makes it sound like this is something new. It's not. We're just hearing about it more because of social media (and exposed to it more ON social media).

Some call it toxicity, others call it sin, and it's as old as humanity's presence on earth. I could tell some pretty shocking stories of things I witnessed or was on the receiving end of in the pre-social media days, but I won't because that garbage is best left to fester in the annals of history.

People haven't changed. If anything, they've gotten more tolerant (maybe? Or just ignorant in different ways?). Social media just gives a megaphone to the vocal minority of troublemakers. The good thing is, at least for the online stuff, there's an x-button. A few decades ago, the bullies and jerks didn't come with an x-button.
 

Osmond4gold

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 27, 2013
What I don't get is how some attempt to defend the indefensible. I remember when Kaetlyn won Worlds and for a few here it was, well she is not deserving, if only others had their jumps or had shown up. Hello, others did not deserve the World title on the day because they either fell or did not feel healthy enough to compete, but feel free to live in denial all you like. Sad that some attempt to ruin an athletes moment. I believe there is another Thread on the Board available to discuss such fans.

The thing is with any sport, an athlete needs to perform on a particular day and if not, the results speak for themselves. To fans having a 'what just happened' moment, give these athletes their dues and remember that this is their day, not yours.
 

Beckaboomer

Final Flight
Joined
Dec 2, 2018
i wish could get along as well as the competitors.

See Yuzu & Nathan funny scene and respect for how it SHOULD be done
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1-My6k0IEI

They always have such nice interactions. :luv17:

In general, I think it's not necessarily true that there's more toxicity these days, but I think the rise of social media & the internet have exposed us to more of it. Along with the general rivalry that comes with sports, you'll get uglier attitudes like nationalism, racism and sexism contributing to the ways in which people choose to express their negative feelings.

I have to admit, when I favor a skater my initial reaction to someone dissing them is anger. However, as I've gotten older I've learned to let people be wrong. Who cares if someone doesn't like what I like? Does it change anything about this thing I like? Even when I'm not into someone or their skating, it does absolutely no good to put them down. I think people need to learn not to engage with the more negative aspects of fan culture and to step away when it gets toxic.

Does hating on the new Russian junior ladies and their quads change what's happening in the ladies field right now?
Does saying Yuzuru Hanyu is overrated take away any of his accomplishments, or erase what he's done for the sport, or diminish his fanbase?
Does saying Nathan Chen is overscored take away his medals, or negate his incredible focus and technical mastery?

Just in general, I wish people would react to disagreement with more kindness. But since I can't force people to be kind, I just try to surround myself with the best of the fandom, not the worst. I generally think people are very polite here, but there are other forums I lurk on where that is not the case.
 

Ladskater

~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~
Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 28, 2003
A simple answer to your question "Reasons for toxicity among figure skating fans" it's called NATIONALISM. We all want our skaters from our country to do well, unfortunately Nationalism is a part of any competitive sport, not just FS. Social Media helps fuel the flames. Non-competitive FS is a different story of course, most skate for the love of Figure Skating.
 

Amei

Record Breaker
Joined
Nov 11, 2013
A simple answer to your question "Reasons for toxicity among figure skating fans" it's called NATIONALISM. We all want our skaters from our country to do well, unfortunately Nationalism is a part of any competitive sport, not just FS. Social Media helps fuel the flames. Non-competitive FS is a different story of course, most skate for the love of Figure Skating.

I don't agree with that - based on what I see on this board most of the people on here cheer for their favorite skaters most of which are not from the same country as the poster.
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 25, 2013
Some fans are just unwilling to accept their favourite losing so they take it out on anyone and everyone.

They have a vision in their head as to what their fave deserves and what others deserve by comparison and when the numbers don’t align they go berserk.

They can’t refute whenever their fave loses so they take their rage out on the scores, judges, the ISU or the arena, evidently. They threaten to get Interpol to investigate or to never buy tickets to the ISU events because judges aren’t giving their faves the marks they have envisioned, which is just ridiculous.

In the case of the men’s event at the GPF, the USFSA didn’t help Nathan Chen to go clean in both programs... the ISU didn’t make Hanyu do the errors he made which led to a greater margin of victory. The skaters did what they did so the results were what they are, and while the skaters have mutual respect for each other, clearly some fans can’t cope with results.

I feel bad for their respective fandoms because these bad apples make everyone look bad. And you know the skaters don’t appreciate or condone this type of fan reaction.
 

Mishaminion

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 12, 2014
I don't agree with that - based on what I see on this board most of the people on here cheer for their favorite skaters most of which are not from the same country as the poster.

I am British and my favourites come from a few different countries...and I see that a lot, so I agree with you on this.
 

Mishaminion

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 12, 2014
Some fans are just unwilling to accept their favourite losing so they take it out on anyone and everyone.

They have a vision in their head as to what their fave deserves and what others deserve by comparison and when the numbers don’t align they go berserk.

They can’t refute whenever their fave loses so they take their rage out on the scores, judges, the ISU or the arena, evidently. They threaten to get Interpol to investigate or to never buy tickets to the ISU events because judges aren’t giving their faves the marks they have envisioned, which is just ridiculous.

In the case of the men’s event at the GPF, the USFSA didn’t help Nathan Chen to go clean in both programs... the ISU didn’t make Hanyu do the errors he made which led to a greater margin of victory. The skaters did what they did so the results were what they are, and while the skaters have mutual respect for each other, clearly some fans can’t cope with results.

I feel bad for their respective fandoms because these bad apples make everyone look bad. And you know the skaters don’t appreciate or condone this type of fan reaction.

There are people who are encouraging others to boycott Nathan, to boo him, to walk out of arenas when it is his turn to skate, to continue with holding up signs when he is getting his medal and national anthem playing...and a whole lot worse!
Just because he won a figure skating competition and they do not agree with that.

It's so petty and childish and very unfair on a guy who skated two technically difficult and clean programs.

People can hate the judging if they want, protest to the ISU but Nathan doesn't score himself.

It was the same with Sotnikova, it was just disgusting, and I have no doubt it is one of the reasons she never really came back properly.
 

NadezhdaNadya

Final Flight
Joined
Dec 22, 2017
There are people who are encouraging others to boycott Nathan, to boo him, to walk out of arenas when it is his turn to skate, to continue with holding up signs when he is getting his medal and national anthem playing...and a whole lot worse!
Just because he won a figure skating competition and they do not agree with that.

It's so petty and childish and very unfair on a guy who skated two technically difficult and clean programs.

People can hate the judging if they want, protest to the ISU but Nathan doesn't score himself.

It was the same with Sotnikova, it was just disgusting, and I have no doubt it is one of the reasons she never really came back properly.
Please do not compare him to Sotnikova. He has textbook technique.
 

lesnar001

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 19, 2005
Please do not compare him to Sotnikova. He has textbook technique.

What in holy heck does that have to do with toxic fans????

Unless you are one of those toxic fans who actually thought it was OK to harass Adelina Sotnikova.
Because she didn't have textbook technique.

Utterly ridiculous for you to post that here.
 

crazydreamer

On the Ice
Joined
Mar 3, 2007
I don’t think this is unique to figure skating. You see the same thing with sasaeng in South Korea or for a while with fans of Justin Bieber in the US or One Direction in the UK. I’m sure a psychologist would have an interesting opinion on the matter. Personally, I don’t get why anyone can get that emotionally invested in someone you don’t even know but it is not rare in any sense.
 

Mishaminion

Record Breaker
Joined
Feb 12, 2014
I don’t think this is unique to figure skating. You see the same thing with sasaeng in South Korea or for a while with fans of Justin Bieber in the US or One Direction in Canada. I’m sure a psychologist would have an interesting opinion on the matter. Personally, I don’t get why anyone can get that emotionally invested in someone you don’t even know but it is not rare in any sense.

I don't understand the need for some to be so toxic, most people can be very passionate about someone but still be respectful and polite about others.
 
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