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Colin Kaepernick & The Nature of Social Media: A Critical Perspective

The 49ers QB was heavily criticized after "destroying" a Twitter Troll

Colin Kaepernick laid into a Twitter troll on Wednesday - now he's getting the brunt of the criticism.

Colin Kaepernick laid into a Twitter troll on Wednesday … now he’s getting the brunt of the criticism.

So, a little thing happened on Twitter the other day between a struggling former Super Bowl QB and one of his fans – and the internet decided to explode because of it.

It all started when San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick did what he usually did on Twitter during the offseason – talk about his conditioning:

Which prompted this response from a particular 49ers fan/Twitter troll, digging at Kaepernick’s most perceived sleight during the 2014 season:

Yeah. Turns out Kaepernick wasn’t having ANY of that.

The starting QB, entering his fifth year in the league, must have decided to make an example of Mr. “Battman_returns” by laying into him in a series of tweets that left the Twitter universe in an uproar – if but only for a second:

Then, came the “drop the mic and walk away” moment:



Needless to say, a lot of people had a lot to say about this.

Some believed that it was about time for the signal-caller to stand up for himself – apparently, he had not made waves in responding to his many critics (whether from media or social media) and he needed to respond to show he wasn’t spineless.

Others believed that it showed how small and delicate of an ego Kaepernick has – after all, why get worked up over such a mild ribbing from one random troll? Appearances matter, and for Kap, it was a bad look.

Then there were those that pointed to the incident as just another example at how immature the 27-year-old native Wisconsinite really is.

Others still were laughing at the fact that, while Batten – apparently, a Bay Area sports fan – only had 8 Twitter followers at the time, he currently stands at almost 2,700 followers strong, as of February 19. Turns out that “feeding the trolls” sometimes works out for the troll.

In any case, many believe that Kaepernick had no business responding to such an innocuous example of “trolling” – especially in the manner he did. After all, this is a guy in the middle of a $100 million contract that he has yet to earn, considering his overall poor performance during the 2014 season. He was a guy in 2014 as slow as ever in reading defenses, who sometimes didn’t know what a good decision looked like, and was perceived to care more about his endorsements than his play on the field. If anything, despite this tame ribbing from a 49ers fan, you would think there were more vicious examples of “Twitter hate” Kap could have responded to.

But, in all fairness, there is such a thing as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” – one can only imagine the kinds of social media criticism he has heard from thousands of random usernames over the years, even in his Super Bowl year of 2012. There’s only so much a person can take, no matter how much money he makes, no matter how famous he is, no matter how much we, as a general public, expect him to sit there and take it because “it’s what he signed up for” – we don’t walk in his shoes, so we can’t judge. And he’s as human as the rest of us – you would think that should count for something.

It also speaks to the nature of social media, as a whole. In today’s insta-reaction, connect-with-anyone world, it allows for public figure and his or her audience to have a direct interaction – something that, I’m sure, public figures love to have. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword – and it also means he or she has a direct interaction to those who have less-than-encouraging words for them. The same goes for a “love or hate” type of personality like Kaepernick – he probably hears the chides of trolls and critics all the time.

So, you would think that Kaepernick, in an effort to stay focused on his job of playing professional football at a high level, could just do the right thing and stay off social media.

Put the cell phone away, keep your Twitter profile and Instagram account dormant, and do your damn job.

How DARE you try to conduct your life like a normal person?!

How DARE you try to conduct your life like a normal person?!

People who lean on this seemingly unequivocal point tend to forget that these aren’t just professional athletes they’re lecturing, but human beings with friends, significant others and social lives – just like any other average joe. They stay on social media not to get bombarded by trolls and “haters”, but to connect with their loved ones and fans: those who encourage and drive them through their day-to-day lives, as well as their endeavors in a heavily public lifestyle. And its a lifestyle that takes its emotional and psychological toll on the most tough-minded of personalities.

Am I saying that Kaepernick was perfectly in the right in his response to Batten – a guy who probably just wanted the QB he roots for to do better in 2015, and didn’t put in the most diplomatic of ways? Of course not – like I said before, it’s not a good look. And despite the fact that it was a pretty epic response, it certainly wasn’t the best way to react for a guy who already has “immature” stamped on his forehead, in the eyes of a growing number of 49ers fans.

But I wouldn’t use this as the be-all, end-all to condemn him as “Not the guy” in San Francisco. The whole reason this “Twitter War” started was because of Kaepernick’s public perception that he’s not working on the things he needs to be working on in order to rediscover the QB that led the 49ers to the Super Bowl two Februarys ago. The fact is, Colin has been working in an offseason “quarterback immersion” program with Kurt Warner in Arizona for almost two months, now. He will continue to work on the things that he sorely lacked in 2014, and attempt to regain his 2012-2013 form.

Kurt Warner, now an analyst for NFL Network, continues to work with Kaepernick in Arizona on honing his QB skills.

Kurt Warner, now an analyst for NFL Network, continues to work with Kaepernick in Arizona on honing his QB skills.

Besides, social media outlets like Twitter are “Knee-Jerk Reaction Central”. Sure, critics will point to this as just another “red flag” for Kap if he continues to struggle in 2015 (albeit with a brand new coaching staff in a time of major transition). But if Kaepernick shows significant signs of improvement come training camp and beyond, this will be a blip in the radar.

Until then, Kaepernick will continue to hear the criticism on social media. Let’s just hope, for everyone’s sake, he goes back to biting his tongue, and leaves all the response he needs for the football field.

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