By Hans Ebert

The subject comes up often enough, but as there are no rules, there are no solutions. Simply put in a world that’s lost its way, social media is the genie that was allowed to pop out and can’t be put back in the bottle.

Whether one likes it or not, every delivery platform offers everyone the complete freedom to express themselves. Hiding behind Freedom Of Speech has set a dangerous precedent. Add Freedom Of Expression and entitlement into the mix and it’s created a world with no priorities- a Mad Max type of dystopian lawlessness where everything is out there and available for free- music, movies, television series, pornography and everything else one can hoard. We are seeing a generation of hoarders stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.

Some use social media for shameless self promotion with followers and views that can be bought and which makes “fame” useless and soulless. Others use it to be heard above the Gunga Din of others even if no one’s listening. There are then those who use it to vent their fury in a world getting angrier by the minute.

Just look at how Hollywood has exploded with two hashtags- #MeToo and #TimesUp- and how it’s seen the downfall of some of the biggest power brokers whose reputations as sexual predators have been known and tolerated for decades. But, for reasons that have never been made clear, only recently have they been singled out as Men Behaving Badly.

What’s concerning is the chain reaction of angst that has been lit. Is all this hand wringing by mainly actresses real with there being an end game to everything? Or is this just a cause célèbre where there’s more than a whiff of hypocrisy and sanctimonious sermons with self serving agendas attached to them?

Another question: What about the men who’ve been abused by powerful women? Many of the male species are now walking on eggshells in order to be politically correct and not be reported to Human Resources for something that would have been considered good natured fun just a few years ago.

When one looks at the big picture, it’s a very dark and blurred one with Orange Julius still in the Orange House in Washington communicating through tweets. Russian spies apparently used social media to manipulate the results of the American elections. Warped young minds learn and pick up bad habits on social media as a shortcut to being noticed. It’s worse than worrying.

As to how these platforms are used in horse racing, well, they need to be revisited. Played smartly, it could even make the horse racing industry game changers. Don’t laugh.

Forget the mantra of “haters gonna hate” for a second. How racing clubs use social media to actually market their product remains way behind the eight ball. There’s very little interactivity, there’s nothing to promote CREATIVE consumer generated content whereas it plods along following the ways in which other products market themselves. There’s no other product like horse racing. Copycat marketing and communications is not exactly pushing the envelope. It’s licking the stamps.

Anyone out there, for example, looking at horse racing having its own brand personality and what it must do to increase its customer base by attracting the under 35 age group while trying to make the current older and more loyal racing fans understand how social media works? It doesn’t mean trying to teach old dogs new tricks, but understand how it’s affecting every facet of the world we live in today.

Perhaps only then can the racing industry be able to police social media effectively and make a difference. If online laws are not in place, it’s time to force, especially Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, to see that by helping users to break various libel laws, they need to be held accountable.

One might criticise Mainland China for its censorship of social media, but is this such a bad thing? Other than keeping out the “foreigners” with their delivery platforms, they’re creating their own Made In China products, where they own, control and censor all content. Yes, there’s also an online Great Wall of China and it works for the country.

As for horse racing and social media, wherever and whenever gambling is involved, no one likes to lose. And despite hypocritical messages to “gamble responsibly”, this cannot work if one is surrounded and bombarded by a growing buffet table of wagering options available 24/7.

Everyone is different, there are cultural differences to bear in mind, and many of us have seen too many sucked into playing catchup after losing and the toll it takes on their personal lives and mental health.

Gambling can be a seductive mistress much like any addiction. And when falling down that dark well, there’s always a need to blame everyone else except one’s self.

This is where and when Twitter trolls come out to play and become keyboard warriors probably sitting in a pub by themselves with anger, desperation, depression and alcohol for company. The result is the online equivalent of drunk talk and emails sent when in an inebriated state and regretted the next day.

Coming from the advertising and music industries, we had several meetings with those in charge of every delivery platform to ensure we were paid for our content. Never did we talk to them about their social responsibility. Or ours. How many industries do?

Social responsibility on social media has somehow gone missing despite a recent groundswell about how Facebook etc are creating a dysfunctional society with, ironically, more and more millennials returning to the real world order. Facebook today is largely for oldsters and not hipsters. It’s quickly become “uncool”.

When with a music company, we should have done so much more by working with our artists who embraced many worthwhile causes. We should have been a home for everything they supported.

In horse racing, one can block or mute the undesirables. Or like recently done with Racingbitch closed the account down as it was letting in the Eleanor Rigbys and their relatives. It’s really that simple. Why put up with stupidity?Why engage in banal exchanges with those who don’t know “He’s” from “his”?

Having said this, imagine the horse racing industry or a racing club putting aside some time to work WITH social media to tackle depression? Or motivate kids to take up sports- not necessarily horse racing? Or help the elderly or anyone who needs emotional support in some small way?

Surely, this will make the image of horse racing more than it is today while showing the world how social media can become partners to create a better world? Wishful thinking? Don’t think so.

#horseracing #socialmedia #socialresponsibility #twitter #racebook #reality #change

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