James Haskell explains how social media was ‘self-harm’ in his rugby career

Rugby Union star James Haskell has opened up on the dangers of social media and how he struggled to find a new identity after he retired from the sport.

Throughout his 17-year-long career, the powerhouse cemented himself as one of the best flankers in the country. The powerhouse enjoyed an incredibly successful spell at London Wasps, where he won the 2007 Heineken Cup Final and the 2007/08 Premiership Final.

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However, his success extended far beyond just the club game. Haskell narrowly missed out on playing for England in the 2007 World Cup. However, he bounced back the following year, with several impressive performances in the Six Nations, playing a prominent role in the line-up.

In the 2010 edition of the competition, he scored two tries against Wales and played in every subsequent game. Furthermore, he became the ‘Man of the Series’ during England’s 3–0 victory over Australia in June 2016.

But like many professional athletes, he’s struggled with his demons.

James Haskell opens up on mental health

Social media has many positive points. It allows families to talk to each other online and gives celebrities a platform to interact with their fans. However, it also provides internet trolls with an outlet to post nasty comments without any repercussions. And this can have a massive effect on people’s mental health.

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In a recent interview on the Under The Surface podcast, Haskell opened up on how it made him feel.

He explained: “I went on one of those forums after my debut and it was like, ‘He’s rubbish’, ‘He shouldn’t play again’. Going on is like a form of self-harm.

“I’ve looked into a lot of it as to why people do it and why social media is so dangerous – it’s basically about reassurance. It’s such a dangerous game, but you’re looking for affirmation. It’s the same as when you say something rude to your mates, and then you nudge them to say Alright, mate, to give them a bit of reassurance. You’re looking for that humanity, of, ‘Is everything okay?’

“You suddenly give value to people that you’ve never met. I’ve never thought about going to an online newspaper, registering for an account to comment, and then going in and insulting everybody on there. You have to be a certain type of person. When you look at the psychology, they are all vying for some sort of mob mentality of horrible people. But the weird thing is that they don’t know they’re horrible; because that’s their sphere.”

How did James Haskell cope with retirement?

In addition, the ex-England international elaborated on the difficulties he’s had after hanging up the boots.

Haskell said: “My mental health has been tested more in retirement, where you’ve lost your identity.

“I was James Haskell the rugby player, was how I was defined. That was on Saturday, the Sunday I retired, and on Monday, I was James Haskell – who the hell is James Haskell? He’s been at boarding school from the age of 10-18, been a professional rugby player from 18-35, around men his whole career, had a routine his whole career.

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“It’s like an animal that you can’t release back into the wild. Like a lion that just sits there waiting for dinner – you’re definitely going to get eaten in the real world.

“That’s the hardest – losing that identity, and what are you going to do? That’s why you see so many players struggle with mental health post-retirement. They probably had it through their career, but it sends you over the cliff.

“You don’t have the structure, the routine, the chance to switch off. Take all of that away and leave them on their own. It’s taking the pin out of the grenade and throwing it into your life, and waiting to see how that blows up.”

James Haskell was speaking on the Original Penguin X Campaign Against Living Miserably Under The Surface podcast.

Featured Image Credit: Under The Surface Podcast