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“Claude Callegari’s sad story is a reminder to be mindful of our words on social media”

“Claude was just an Arsenal fan, doing what he enjoyed, speaking about a club he loved. There’s no crime in that” writes Tom Albrighton.

With great sadness, many of us learned a few days back that Claude Callegari - a familiar face and voice to football fans all over the world who are familiar with AFTV - passed away. Leaving behind him in his wake was a tweet that alluded to taking his own life.

Now, this is not a pity party, nor is it a call for social media to get its act together and remove anonymous accounts (that argument is for another day, just remember that some rely on anonymity to speak out) but it really hits home on the fragility of life. I know exactly how this can feel.

Very recently I have suffered. I have suffered badly. Not to the extent that I considered taking my own life, but I found a low I never thought I’d find. Happy go lucky switched seamlessly to down in the dumps and misery piled upon misery, to the point where I’m not ashamed to admit - it all got too much. Next thing I knew, I was sat in Whickham, crying in my van, sobbing helplessly over events that had transpired that day, that week and the year as a whole.

To heal, I needed to seek out help, which I did rapidly. Part of this healing process ties into this, what I’m doing now, and what I enjoy doing. Podcasting, writing and engaging about anything Sunderland is a huge part of my life, I have made some wonderful friends, met wonderful people, and had some of my best days following the red and white wizards. Now, we all know fanzines and podcasts are a totally voluntary venture, but just think of the reality here, that for someone to heal they had to remove themselves from this sphere and willingly so.

FBL-ENG-PR-CRYSTAL PALACE-SUNDERLAND Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

This is the toxic nature of social media, the toxic nature of football fandom. Of course, nobody is immune from criticism nor is their opinion worth less than another’s, but when the keyboard warriors jump up and down gleefully when they see something they can throw critique or general negativity towards, they rarely stop to think of the consequences their actions could have.

Luckily for myself, I’m thick-skinned as it is, but removing myself from this sphere and laying aside one of the few things that gave me pleasure was entirely necessary. Unfortunately, some people can’t do that, or aren’t willing to. That’s when people have to take responsibility for their actions and take a large dose of reality.

When people put themselves out there in these forms, it’s incredibly brave and far braver than anyone sitting behind a keyboard will ever be. To expose yourself like this to hundreds or thousands of people, very few who you know or know you, is scary.

Sunderland FC Photo by NCJ Archive/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

You lay yourself out there to take shots from all angles just because it’s something you enjoy doing. Imagine how strange you’d find it if a stranger stood on the touchline hurling abuse at you as you played football? Not normal, is it?

So, when we’re online, just stop and take a second. What you say may not be awful, it may be ’banter’ or however you may justify it, but think about the impact on the other end. There isn’t a valid reason or excuse as to why people abuse others on social media. Yes, have your opinion. Yes, have debate. But live and let live. Nobody doing ANY football podcast or fanzine is committing a crime, in fact what they’re doing should be applauded, creating free content, donating their time so people can have content focused solely on their club.

It isn’t worth abuse and it isn’t worth the pain.

Claude was just an Arsenal fan, doing what he enjoyed, speaking about a club he loved. There’s no crime in that. Stop the hate. Stop the abuse.

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