We sat down with Hector Bellerin last month for a wide-ranging interview that covered social responsibility, the environment and footballers' affecting change.
In the second part of that discussion, our Spain international discussed the rise of social media, how it can be a force for good and bad and how he deals with criticism.
Read on for a full transcript:
Hector, I'd like to ask you about the role social media plays. Players in the past have talked about being misrepresented by the media when they speak out on issues. Now you have a function where you can speak directly to fans, you can speak with the filter off. How much of a benefit is that?
I think social media is a blessing and a curse. Now, people around the world have the tool and the fortune to be able to communicate with their heroes, their favourite players. It’s not just in football, it’s in film, in music. This is something that you couldn’t do 20 years ago and it’s amazing, but it’s only amazing when it’s used in the right way. When it’s used to communicate in a positive way, to communicate the right messages, to be able to interact with people that you couldn’t have spoken to before. I think that’s the great thing about social media but then there’s so many other negative things as we all know. It’s all about using it in a way in which we can influence all these people in the most positive way.
The filter's off in what you can say to people, and the filter is also off in what you have to read and hear. So it's refreshing, but also dangerous?
Yeah, of course. The other thing with it as well is that there’s always people there waiting for the smallest slip-up so they can make the biggest headline about something you have probably never said, about something they could have reworded. As I said, it’s a blessing and a curse but I think it’s amazing the fact that something could come out in the news before and there was no way you could have your say, but right now it’s very easy to say, ‘Listen guys, I never said this, I said that’. As I said, it’s always about using it in a positive way, in a way that can enhance you and the people around you in your club, in your image. That’s always the best way.
Of course, you're not alone in having to read criticism on social, The likes of Raheem Sterling, Mesut Ozil have had to go through that as well. What do you think when you see that?
When I was really young I used to care a lot about these things because I come from this generation where social media was a very important thing growing up. At the beginning it can hurt you, but then when you start playing football and then you see that people are going to talk whether you do well or not, you get to a point where you just don’t care about it. People can type anything they want and you can just scroll through like you don’t see it. I think that’s something that comes as a professional. You love football, you play every day and with that, you’re so lucky that you’re able to do this. But at the same time, there’s going to be negative things about it and that’s probably one of those things. It’s part of the job and it’s something that you have to deal with. As you say, it just makes you blind and deaf towards all this kind of criticism. We know the kind of criticism we need to take, which comes from coaches, which comes from people that know football. I’m always open to learning. When I make mistakes, I know when I make them. The coach will tell me, ‘You should have done this, you should have done that’ and it’s about listening to the right people. All the 300,000 people out there who think they’re coaches and are always telling you what you should do, what you shouldn’t do, these aren’t the ones you need to listen to. You only need to listen to what you’ve been learning, to the coaches around you who will always give you the best advice for you and the team. That’s the best way for the club and for the team to always work in the best way possible.
You said recently that of you act differently, you become a target. Why do you think people react that way?
I think change is always scary for a lot of people. People think that because we are living in a certain way for the last 20 years, we should be living in the same way in the 20 years after, and it is not like this. The world keeps evolving, society keeps solving problems to get new ones. There's things that you could say 20 years ago that you can't say anymore. I think people are afraid of all this change. It always takes one person to raise this issue in order to change. Like it happened with Martin Luther King, you know, when so many people must have been like 'this guy is crazy’, but then thanks to people like him, as a society, we are where we are today and we're still not even halfway to where we should be. It's important to have people like that in order to progress and to be better people and to have a better world.
Copyright 2019 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.