Date: 1st May 2011 at 10:18am
Written by:

What an amazing place Twitter is. A true social media, a great leveller, where the hoi-polloi can mix and engage with heads of state, celebrities from A list to Z, writers, reality TV ‘stars’, sports people and, of course, footballers.

It is a place of intelligent discourse, witty repartee and reasoned, measured debate which improves society and the world we live in. It’s the kind of place where a footballer can create an account and be welcomed generously and openly to the party by fans of the team he plays for. It’s certainly not the kind of place where a footballer can create an account and then shut it down two hours later because he simply can’t be arsed with the invective directed at him.

Oh wait, yes it is.

It’s the kind of place where a footballer’s sister can receive the following message because her famous brother has, apparently, broken up with his old girlfriend started going out with somebody else.

Footballer’s personal lives are of little consequence to me but if you follow the trail of Tweets from the one above you find a strange and frankly discomfiting undercurrent. Fans of players, I understand. Young women who are into these players ‘Beatles style’, I also understand, but some of what you read is really quite disturbing. If this were ‘real’ life you’d be looking at restraining orders and increased security. It’s cyber-stalking and bullying of the worst kind.

Often it’s faceless and anonymous but not always. For some reason Twitter has made people think it’s perfectly ok to eschew all manners and decency. Journalist who writes something fans take exception to? ABUSE. Fan of a team whose opinion differs to that of a fan of the same team? ABUSE. Opposition fans? ABUSE. Footballer who says anything at all? ABUSE.

Today, Bolton striker Kevin Davies announced he was going to quit Twitter. I’m no fan of him as a player but his feed was interesting and intelligent, a decent look into the life of a professional footballer, and far, far removed from inane LOLZy banter of some of the more high profile players. And he’s quitting because of the abuse. Really, who needs it?

Last week I read, rather incredulously, two Arsenal fans argue on Twitter and one of them, quite seriously, decided the best way to solve the problem would be a punch-up in real life. Mad, I know, but on one level that guy had a point. He took exception to some name calling and wondered, quite reasonably in my opinion, if the other guy would have ever called him that to his face. I doubt it. Yet on Twitter anything goes.

There are great things about Twitter. It does bring people together, it does allow you to engage and debate and talk to people you wouldn’t normally have a chance to. More importantly, it allows you to talk with your peers, to discuss football, politics, Glee, whatever. And it opens up a new world of opinion, new cultures, ways of thinking and more.

Yet underneath it all, bubbling just below the surface, is this viciousness, this nastiness that makes you despair at times. In years to come we might discover the best thing about Twitter is that it makes the people who are nothing but spiteful and horrible so easy to identify.  Four step program:

Step 1 – Receive Tweet

Step 2 – Check person’s timeline

Step 3 – Realise person is an angry, bitter, ill-mannered cunt

Step 4 – Block or just ignore

I don’t expect fans of rival teams to be friendly with each other, or with players from rival teams, but it goes beyond that. On a basic human level the lack of manners is a sorry reflection on those involved. You can disagree with somebody without name-calling, you can argue with somebody without abusing them, and you can differ entirely without resorting to half-witted, tedious barbs which lack the intelligence to strike home.

Sometimes it is best, if you’ve got nothing good to say, to say nothing at all. You’re only making yourself look stupid and making it easy for the rest of us to know you are.

To call us cunts on Twitter, click here.