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Manchester United defender Phil Jones has spoken about the challenges young players face in today's "very hostile" and "toxic" social media environment - and why he hasn't posted on his platforms since 2017.
The 29-year-old centre-back, who has been plagued with injuries throughout his 10-year spell at Old Trafford, pulled no punches towards his critics in an interview last month.
"I must be an easy target," he told The Times. "Every footballer has a tag and unfortunately mine is, 'Let's have a laugh at him.' But -- and I say this in the nicest possible way -- I know who'll have the last laugh.
"I'm proud of my career and when it finishes and I'm enjoying my life -- and by the way I'm super fortunate that I'll be able to do that, because footballers are fortunate -- [the keyboard warriors] will still be in their mum's spare bedroom, sipping Diet Pepsi that's flat, eating a Pot Noodle, sitting in their boxers, tweeting."
Jones, who has endured years of abuse on the likes of Twitter and Facebook, has since given fans further insight into his decision to leave social media.
"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," Jones told the UTD Podcast.
"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 (then) to read stuff as well.
"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."
Our new away shirt. Let's keep fighting! #HereToCreate@adidasfootball @manunitedhttps://t.co/q1z50QMj6M pic.twitter.com/fnRYReYq5A
- Phil Jones (@PhilJones4) May 12, 2017
In the interview with UTD podcast, the former England international said things are different for young players who have been brought up with social media - compared to his experiences coming through the ranks.
"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.
"I look how the game's been developed over the last 10 years, and the way social media has developed and it's difficult to stay away from it. It's difficult not to get distracted by it (and) 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 was also asked about whether he wanted to hit back at those critics.
"Good question," he said. "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."
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