The creation of social media has done a lot for the jiu-jitsu community. We can now stay connected with people we met at other academies, share articles (wink) and technique videos, and stay up-to-date on athletes we admire.
However, it goes without saying that not all that sharing we do is necessarily beneficial for ourselves or others. Kids are taught by teachers and parents that something they post online can follow them for the rest of their lives, and we’re reminded of that fact as adults every time a news story comes up about someone who was fired or saw their business crash to the ground all because of an idiotic tweet or Facebook post.
We in the jiu-jitsu community, though, have to keep something else in mind before we put something on the internet for everyone to see: our academies. Lots – if not most – of us proudly do “check-ins” at our gyms, post photos with our teammates and coaches, and write about particularly awesome training sessions on our social media accounts. Most of the time, this is a great way to tell the world why they, too, should train where we do.
But sometimes, it can backfire.
The other day, a friend sent me a screenshot she’d taken of a video posted to a popular jiu-jitsu page on Facebook. It was immediately clear that the topic of concern wasn’t the video, but a comment below it that called a woman in the video a “*****” and strongly implied that she had no place in what was clearly a “men’s” sport.
As a woman, a jiu-jitsu practitioner, and a not-completely-terrible human being, I was as enraged with the stranger’s internet comment. Normally, I stand firm on my policy not to feed internet trolls, but I decided to make an exception for this charming gentleman and see what he was all about. With just a few clicks, I discovered where he trained, what belt level he was, and his professor’s name.
Depending on how much I wanted to blow things out of proportion, I could have not only messaged his instructor telling him how his student was giving his academy a bad name, but also left the screenshot on the academy’s page so everyone who checked it out would see what kind of people this gym was forming their students into. I also could have shared the gym’s page on my own account and warned people away from it, claiming that it was clearly a place where only one gender was welcome and you risked being called a “*****” if you trained there.
My friend and I took a less intense route and settled on replying to the douchecanoe’s comment, calling him out on being an embarrassment to himself, his coach, and his gym. He deleted what he wrote, (probably) cried himself to sleep that night in shame, and it was done.
But what would have happened if I’d decided to be a jerk about things and really put him on blast? What if he’d said something even more messed-up, or what if hundreds or thousands of people had been so offended by it that they felt the need to share that screenshot with all of their fellow jiu-jitsu companions?
It seems extreme, and for the comment in question, it definitely would have been. I would never condone trying to ruin an entire academy’s reputation over some asinine comment that one of its students made. But not everyone thinks the same way I do, and you have no way of knowing how everyone will react to what you write.
When you post something online about jiu-jitsu, it reflects a lot about what your academy teaches and preaches. For instance, if you see someone constantly posting about what an awesome class they had and how much they love their #bjjfamily, it’s a pretty safe assumption that they’re happy where they train and that you might be if you trained there, too. If you see a student from another gym bragging about how they destroyed the new kid and made him leave the gym crying (and then see his training partners “liking” the post), you can probably infer that at least one person in that academy might not make you feel very welcome if you were to try a class there.
Your professor has probably worked very hard to get her academy to where it is today, so when you represent her in a way that works against what she’s built up, don’t expect her to be happy with you. I can’t speak for every coach out there, but I know mine would be livid if I were posting negative things about my teammates or openly belittling other jiu-jitsu athletes online. In fact, I’d probably be doing burpees until I died.
Your own jiu-jitsu career can suffer from your online behavior, too. The Fight To Win Pro team is very open about the fact that they have no problem rejecting a talented fighter based on asinine posts made online, and many sponsors will turn down or drop athletes if they feel that they aren’t representing the brand well.
If you’re going to represent your academy with hashtags, check-ins, and photos, remember that you’re also representing it with what you write both on your own page and in comments on other people’s pages. You can argue that “It’s my life and I can talk about what I want,” and that’s cool, but that doesn’t mean that other people can’t take what you say and use it to judge you and your academy. Maybe your controversial post won’t get any attention, or maybe it will go viral for all the wrong reasons. In this share-happy age we live in, you really have no way of knowing which one it will be.
If you absolutely can’t stop writing offensive stuff because “people are too sensitive these days” or something, more power to you. Just don’t drag your gym or teammates down with you. At the very least, keep the name of your academy off your page, or adjust your privacy settings so people you aren’t friends with can’t see your posts.
Then again, maybe you shouldn’t – all those burpees will really help you get in shape.