James Corrigan: Twitter gave fans and stars chance to interact... then the nutters logged on

The Way I See It: Naturally, as more superstars signed up, the superstars began interacting mainly with each other and so the common tweeter felt like a voyeur
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Thanks to that "unnamed married Premier League footballer" – who, six weeks after winning his super-injunction, remains about as unnamed as he must be happily married – the Twitterati are feeling very noble. They are thinking of themselves as some huge freedom-of-speech group bravely marching through the internet equivalent of Tiananmen Square.

"You cannot silence us," they scream at the claimant and his astute team of lawyers. "Our lives and account statuses do not mean a damn. We are ready to fall and be blocked if that's what it takes. Power to the Tweeple..."

Yes, ostensibly it was a good week for Twitter (the social networking website that those older than 50 insist on referring to as "the social networking website" without having the first clue what the hell that means). They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, and that is particularly true when your website is dominating the headlines for revealing bad publicity nobody is supposed to know about. It's "Big Brother" reversed. We, the proles, are watching the elite, and it seems as if there isn't a damn thing they can do about it. If only @georgeorwell was alive to see it.

But, then the great man would have probably realised what the elite – and certainly the sporting elite – can do about it. They can log off and go back to their ex-directory heaven. They can and they will. Not just because of those rotters who have taken all the fun out of the super-injunction, but because of all those rotters who have taken all the fun out of posing in front of fans. Tweet by tweet, the hero worship is being outnumbered by the hero abuse. The clock is ticking and the mouse is clicking. The arrows of the icons are hovering over the icon which reads "delete account".

Kevin Davies and Paul Lawrie have already done so because of what they term "abuse" and although the Bolton centre-forward and the 1999 Open champion are hardly the biggest names, they will be seen as trendsetters. Or, as it were, trendenders. Lee Westwood is also considering closing his account and, after the week he has just had, how many believe Wayne Rooney won't be putting his to sleep in the very near future?

There are those such as Ian Poulter who have pledged to continue for ever, saying he "loves the abuse" and we must believe him (after all, you don't go wearing trousers like that if you aren't totally averse to the odd dig). But the suspicion is that as the insults multiply in both a) number and b) sickness the iPhones of the sporting IT crowd will sound their farewell tune in unison.

A shame many will call it. Here was the chance for the player and the fan to interact, for the former to give the latter some insight into their profession and existence and for the latter to express their interest and inquisitions. It worked wonderfully for a while, but very soon it began to unravel. And that wasn't just because the pathetic lunatics discovered the perfect outlet for their pathetic lunacy. Naturally, as more superstars signed up, the superstars began interacting predominantly with each other and so the common tweeter felt like a voyeur. Granted, they would still receive the occasional reply to brag to their friends about, but the insight was drying up as quick as the bonhomie. Essentially, as this household name contacted this household name with a message that 73 per cent of the country had the capacity to view, it became "texting for egos". And inevitably the egos joined the party.

Fast-forward a few million more tweets and we have reached the point where the interaction between player and fan basically revolves around Piers Morgan and whichever superstar he is trying to make out is a best friend. The myth-maker hasn't always been successful, as revealed by this wit-laden exchange with Rooney last week after the footballer had attended an awards ceremony.

"What award did you win @WayneRooney – Fastest Transfer U-Turn of the Year After Big Cheque Arrived?"

"@piersmorgan did u win 1 for most boring show of the year. Stop hanging on to me pls. I don't want to know u"

"@WayneRooney That's what you said to Sir Alex before he paid you £50mill"

The question is does anyone need a discussion that wouldn't even deserve airtime in the most desperate of pubs? Morgan might, but does Rooney, or indeed any of his fellow idols? Aren't the pros of extra profile and thus sponsors' satisfaction being outrun by the cons of humiliation and thus personal satisfaction? The answer must be yes and, believe it, for many of the sporting heavyweights, Twitter is losing its allure. Who would have thought it? The clubs and governing bodies have long been warning them as to the perils of the medium and the clubs and governing bodies are being proved to be correct.

Doubtless Twitter would and will survive without the idols and in a sporting sense may even flourish as a "breaking news" information tool as well as being a network for erudite fans and even as an arguing ground for numbskull fans. And either section can always tweet with the sports journalists if they want to feel part of it and there are many sports journalists who will continue to oblige. But my guess is the fans will have to be content with "conversing about" rather than "conversing with" the likes of the Manchester United centre-forward. Maybe that's the way it should be. Regardless of what one unnamed married Premier League footballer may think.

Comments