WHEN you live for the approval of strangers and that is where you derive satisfaction and joy, even the slightest negativity has the potential to knock you down.
This is a sentiment that applies to folk in all walks of life, but I suspect it will particularly resonate with those in the public eye.
Whether you are a sprinter who just wants to be the fastest from A to B or the jockey who wants to be champion, athletes are not only judged by their results but also by complete strangers.
The key difference between the sprinter and the jockey is simple — one runs on their own two feet while the other can only go as fast as the four hooves under them.
When a sprinter is beaten, they know the result is down to their own ability, or lack of, while the jockey, on the other hand, may have ridden a tactical master class, but still be beaten because they were not on the fastest horse in the race.
I know from personal experience, trying to satisfy everyone is a fruitless task — worrying about the opinions of Twitter trolls can only damage you because for every positive or supportive tweet you read, there will likely be five on the other side of the fence.
For a time, I would allow these slanderous comments creep into my mind.
The common accusations of being “crooked” or “cheating” aren’t nice, whether you’re in primary school or a retirement home. Self-doubt seeps in and confidence is unknowingly tarnished.
Funnily enough, since I have stopped race riding it seems there are a new set of demands and expectations placed upon my shoulders. Having turned my attention towards discussing races rather than taking part — a whole different audience demands satisfaction.
Just over a year ago, I made my debut for Racing TV, who wished me well on their social media platforms.
One such post attracted ample replies including one genius who wrote, “burnt a lot of bridges ... jury’s out.”
Another commented, “Worst pundit in the game.”
The moral of this story is that pleasing everyone is impossible, but it doesn’t have to affect you.
I’m an active tweeter. I believe it’s healthy to read the good and the bad — some of the comments are actually valid and can aid improvement.
The key is to know that while everyone is entitled to express their views, their opinions don’t actually matter.
I distinctly remember handing my phone to my cousin Debbie after my little Cheltenham saga in 2013.
She was accompanying me to Limerick races the Saturday after the Festival and while I was driving, I asked if she would go through the hundreds of tweets I was tagged in and read them to me.
She doubted my intentions initially, but I explained that I wanted to her to 'like' each tweet on my behalf before blocking the person forever. That way they would know I saw their slander and that I would never have to see another opinion from them again.
Jockeys today are subjected to masses of criticism from every variety of 'expert' on multiple mediums and platforms.
Essentially, all a jockey has to acknowledge is their employer and their results. If you can satisfy the former then the latter will follow.
A certain level of ignorance is necessary to succeed in any walk of life.
Social media can be a friend rather than a foe — but not everyone has the mental strength to compartmentalise the superfluous from the things that actually matter.
Why should some people who you don’t know and will probably never meet dictate whether you are on a social media platform or not?
Those decisions are yours to make and by allowing keyboard critics to sway your mindset, you are unconsciously handing them control.
Some of my former colleagues refuse to engage in the world of social media due to the likelihood of unwarranted onslaught from nobodies.
It sounds ridiculous when you think about it logically, but this is a reality for many in the public eye.
One of my closest friends from the weigh room recently said they hadn’t gone on Twitter lately because they were afraid of what might be said after a particular ride.
It’s inevitable if you give a horse a bad ride then expect the worst but don’t jump back on the social media bandwagon after a good day at the races.
Rather, it’s best to take both in tandem and find a happy medium.
Don’t be afraid of the 'block' button and remember that freedom of speech is a human right, but acknowledging such natter is optional.