Manchester United defender Phil Jones has openly shared his experience with social media in the latest UTD Podcast.
Our defender is the next guest in the series, in which our no.4 openly reflects on his injury-plagued years and the difficulties of being injured, both physically and mentally.
Speaking to presenters Sam Homewood, Helen Evans and ex-Red David May, Jones reveals the struggles he had with social media following mass criticism from pundits and others, while he was just working as hard as he could to get back fit and playing for United again.
The 2012/13 Premier League winner says it’s been challenging for him to listen to the criticism for him on social media and in the wider media, not just for him but also for those closest to him.
“Difficult, very difficult,” Jones says.
“I mean, I stepped away from social media a long time ago but it’s difficult because all your friends read it, your family read it and they support you, they want the best for you. They don’t want to see their mate, their husband, their dad getting slaughtered all over the papers or all over the media, so it’s tough because mentally I was going through a tough time and to read stuff as well.”
“I always say that footballers don’t have a voice, your voice comes when you finish playing football and no-one really cares anymore. So, it’s difficult but it’s something I’ve learned to deal with, especially over the time I’ve been at United and the more experience you get, the older you get, the better you learn to deal with those things.
“I suppose for young players coming into the game now, not just at Man United, but all over the world, it’s a very hostile, toxic place to come into and they’ve got to be able to deal with that mentally as well as physically.”
Jones is asked whether it was easier to step back from social media due to his upbringing without it. He believes it’s a whole different ball game now for players in football academies and for youngsters in general, compared to when he was a young boy.
“Yeah, I think I’m definitely old fashioned when it comes to things like that,” he says about coming off social media.
“I look how the game’s been developed over the last 10 years, and the way social media has developed and Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and all these social media sites, it’s difficult to stay away from it. It’s difficult not to get detracted by it, but like I said, young players coming into the game, I think it’s difficult for them not to read it.
“I know as a young player, that’s the first thing you do, you come off the game and you want to see what people are saying about you and when you strip it all back in reality, it doesn’t really matter what they say because they’re not picking the team.”
Jones is also asked about if he sometimes wanted to hit back at his critics and if he has felt frustrated by holding himself back.
“Good question,” the 2016 FA Cup winner says.
“I just feel like I’m better than that now, I’m wiser to it. Someone’s dangling a carrot waiting for a bite. Like I say, it’s been difficult, but I’ve learned to deal with it. For some reason, maybe, I get more than others but I’m sure everybody would say the same thing. But people would say that’s part of being a footballer so [I] take it as it comes.”
The 29-year-old emphasises it’s important to know who to listen to. A few weeks back, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised Jones for his continuous work to get back fit and playing for the Reds once again.
“Yeah, that was really nice,” our no.4 emphasises.
“I spoke to him after and said thank you for the words, because it meant a lot, it really did because there’s nothing [that means] more [as] a footballer, for someone, managers, staff, coaches, players, to have your back. To feel really supported by him was a nice feeling. At the time, I needed that. It was nice.”