WORLDWIDE – The competitive cheerleading industry has become more connected than any youth sports industry world-wide. Utilizing social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat the industry has become so inseparable that at times it has become impossible to escape the grips of an online community with such a massive digital footprint. Like with any story there are multiple sides to be told. Similarly, the cheerleading anons culture that has gripped the cheerleading industry on social media, for several seasons, has multiple facets. In exploring this niche subculture that operates just below the mainstream timeline, but still close enough to end up on the casual user’s news feed, we learned that there are two very different sides to this realm, good and bad. Together, we will explore the who, why, and how of each of these polar opposite subgroups that combined have created the afore mentioned “anon” subculture.
Cheerleading Anons, a Subculture:
When we set out to create this feature on the anon culture we were inundated with concern from the positive “cheerleading anons” community, all with a general concern over their mislabeling of all “cheerleading anons” being negative. We remained committed to approaching the topic from the most fair standpoint that we could, assuring them that we would ensure that the classifications of “cheerleading anons” would become evidently separate. Over the last few weeks we were surprised to learn there are many positive anons who we have and have not heard of. They have self-tasked themselves with the job of being inspirational and uplifting, while sharing in their love of the sport. We promised the members of this subclass that we would be sure to tell their story with a hope of setting them into their own subculture, as to not be dragged down with the lump association of the negative connotations that come with what “cheerleading anons” have become to be known.
There is nothing wrong with being anonymous when you can poignantly discuss cheerleading from an educated standpoint. In this realm, there is no place for negativity or constant beat downs on teams or athletes specifically. The selflessness that exists amongst this category of accounts is unmatched, these users are full of uplifting compliments with no means of elevating ones self for being a good person.
To counter the above, we examine what the generalized type of “cheerleading anons” is. We have all seen it. Everyday in real life we identify stories to be fake or untrue at first sight. Specific to cheerleading, this misguided subclass focuses on more targeted attacks. Much of what the negative side of this subculture dwells on is short lived drama for no other reason but to elicit a response. This subclass of social media user thrives on any and all types of attention, and will utilize whatever methods to gain it. We have all seen instances of these accounts being negative without any apparent reason. We have seen these accounts, without a clear identity, demean the hard work of athletes and coaches in this industry exploiting an instance where perfection was eclipsed by error. We have all seen the aggressive and attacking nature in their posts as they seek to self elevate their account in some weird and convoluted way that is not connected to self notoriety.
The “tea” (information) that they disseminate to their drama hungry following often plays no actual role or purpose in the growth of the sport. The hungry audience that thrives off of these instances have their own self reflecting to do. The negative side of this culture has begun to have adverse effects on the growth and sustainability of all star cheerleading. It is important for us to remember that all star cheerleading is a luxury, and a privilege. Parents across the globe everyday have the opportunity to enroll their children in youth sports. They seek to foster a safe environment for their children, one where they can learn life long lessons. The negative side of this industry has polluted what should be an attractive sport, forcing parents to make the easy decision of other sport options. We are not naive to think that other sports do not have negative subcultures, however, they don’t play out in connected communities the way they do in the cheerleading.
We must remember this regarding this part of the “anon subculture”:
- these people have real identities
- these are people that we know or have encountered in our travels and experiences in this sport
- these are people who for some reason find power and joy in hiding behind an account without a public identity for the purpose of saying things to and about people they will not in person.
We, the cheerleading community, have more control than you realize. We yield control over who gains relevance in our social circles. What we choose to give “legs” to is what who we give the ability to move within our online community.
Understanding that a “Retweet” is an acknowledgement of support or agreement, or that when we “Favorite” or “Like” a post that people think it’s acceptable behavior or that you’re condoning that behavior and share that opinion. We have the ability to control what becomes popular. We have the ability to control what becomes representative of our sport. Together, through being mindful of the above and understanding the responsibility of every member of our social community. Together, we can put an end to the negative subculture that plagues our teams, our athletes, our sports future.
When tasked with how to responsibly counter the negative side of the “cheerleading anons” subculture, here are some tactics to ensure that we’re mindful of what we are supporting:
Is it true?
Is it helpful?
Is it inspiring?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
Additionally, consider the following:
Would you want the same said or done to you?
Would you want the same thing said or done to your child?
Do you believe in this?
Would you say this to someones face?
Would you want your coach, gym owner, parent, professor, or boss to know that you feel this way?
Is it going to matter in an hour, a day, or a week?
If without a shadow of a doubt, you can answer yes to any or all of the questions, by all means interact and re-share. But also understand that what you condone is as much a reflection of who you are as it is of the original author.
When we began to compose this piece, sure, we undertook “attack” from people who had the most to lose. It is important to remember that we are ever evolving creatures. We learn from every experience that we have. What we do with that new found education taken from our experiences varies. It is important to remember, you cannot change what you say on the internet, as it will last forever in some half-life version of itself somewhere. However, you can change who you are.. you can grow, you can learn, you can decide the direction that you will continue on. Deleting your past history on social media is only a temporary fix, the complete picture of who you were to who you have become is the most important lesson to be taught.
Our initial plan for this feature article was to simply cast light on a sub-community that has begun to have an adverse effect on the growth the all star cheerleading industry. However, Twitter quickly became consumed by the conception of a list. The List, in theory has become the sole focus of everyone’s interest, fear, and call to self preservation. The internet is a free-range beast. It is important to remember that what we say and do lasts forever. We cannot escape the things that we publish, and this includes when we “leak” our identity, even if it’s just to gain a couple of quick followers, and only for a few minutes. Accountability for ones actions or words is something that can never be fully escaped.
It is my hope that the existence of a list, is enough to motivate and re-direct the misguided “cheerleading anons” to find purpose, to self-reflect, and find some sense of morality so that they too can positively benefit the industry.
The online anon culture is not one that is strictly exclusive to the all star cheerleading world, the internet creates a veil effect where people feel more comfortable for certain reasons, and more braising for others to post without accountability for ones self. For more information on much of the inner workings into the psyches of the people within this subculture, read the Newsweek Article How Does the Internet Turn People Into Trolls?.