Joel Byrom column: ‘Reading comments online affected my confidence and form’

Joel Byrom of Stevenage during Stevenage vs Macclesfield Town, Sky Bet EFL League 2 Football at the

Joel Byrom of Stevenage during Stevenage vs Macclesfield Town, Sky Bet EFL League 2 Football at the Lamex Stadium on 31st August 2019 - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

In his column for CometSport, Stevenage midfielder Joel Byrom talks mental health, the impact of social media and Boro’s battle against relegation.

I have been wanting to write something on this subject for a while but after the weekend's events it feels like now is the right time.

After seeing the news on my way home from the game regarding the sudden death of Love Island presenter Caroline Flack I started to get angry at how the press and social media can have such a negative effect on people. Not long ago it was one of our own, former Stevenage front man Mike Thalassitis who took his own life in similar circumstances.

Normally in a football season when I am fit and available I stay away from reading comments online after games. I just find it easier to not look at anything after a game whether it's good or bad.

This season I've found myself being drawn into reading them regularly and it's shocked me at some of the things I've read. I understand the frustration at the position we are in alongside performances and results being nowhere near the standard but some comments I see are just personal and nasty. It is a small minority but it's that small minority that might have a massive effect on someone's health in the long run.

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I know you think these comments won't be read but as players sometimes these comments just fall into our laps without wanting to see them. Individual players, staff members and the football club have all been on the receiving end throughout the season. This is not going to give a player the confidence to go out into the next game and produce his best knowing that people are just waiting for his next mistake.

I have been on the receiving end of this numerous times in my career and it's something I've had to learn to deal with after previously struggling with it. I used to read everything, just hoping the next comment would be a nice one. It affected my confidence and form for a while.

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If just one person reads this and it changes the way they think before they write something negative from behind a keyboard or a phone screen, then I've helped.

On the other side of things, social media can also have a hugely positive effect. This last week has been amazing to see the #stevenageforfootballleague campaign. Reading everyone's fantastic memories throughout the years has given me great joy and an extra belief that this season is far from over.

Over the years Stevenage teams have produced heroic performances backed by the fans. The unity we showed over the weekend was amazing to see. It gave the Lamex a different feel against Salford and the fans who stayed behind at the end of the game just shows how special you can be. The result wasn't the one we wanted but it was a step in the right direction.

A few of my fondest memories include Kidderminster away, that day is still probably my best in football. To score the goal to guarantee promotion in front of the Stevenage fans will always stay with me.

Standing in front of the penalty at White Hart Lane trying to stop my left leg from shaking. If it didn't I don't have a clue how I would have taken the penalty.

Hearing the noise at Bramall Lane just before the second leg on the League One playoff game kicked off. I can just remember looking back to Scott Laird at left back and just laughing to each other at how far we had come. I think he just looked back, smiled and said 'this is noisy'.

The 5-1 win away at Rochdale was also a special day. We were up against it after Graham left for Preston but the squad was united as one. Everyone in the dressing room standing on the benches with the music on full blast at the end of the game always sticks with me. The final six games at the back end of last season was also brilliant to be part of.

We have 12 cup finals left under a manager who will give his heart and soul to the cause just as he did as a player. This is a time for us to unite and go that extra mile to produce yet another moment of magic when nobody else believes we can.

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