Friday, January 9, 2015

Twitter - The Good, Bad, the Ugly, and World Football

Twitter: it is a polarizing word to most of the Americans that I know. You either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground. Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, and all the other myriad of social-networking applications that arose in the past fifteen years have had strong opinions associated with them. I was no different. All throughout the 2000s, I vowed to never cave to the latest fad and constructed social engineering effort that came along. I saw it as a devil's tool to steal time, compromise privacy, destroy individualism, and connive ways to push advertising down ones throat in an already over-saturated advertising market.

However, back in 2009, while away from my family for a training course, I finally gave in and joined Facebook. I saw it as a one-time compromise. It was after all an easy tool to share photos with family. What a Pandora's Box I opened! Facebook quickly dragged me into its clutches. I quickly developed a friends list of my legitimate friends and acquaintances from whom my well-travelled career has separated me. But I always managed to use Facebook in a way that fit my perspective and conformed to my beliefs. Thankfully, Facebook was designed that way.

After selling my soul to Facebook … and incidentally, not a day goes by that I do not curse Facebook for their newest 'improvements' designed to connect one with advertisers, I vowed I would draw the line there. This new Twitter thing… that was too far. I had already bemoaned Facebook's penchant for disinformation… it became the tool for instantly forwarding the latest hoax news or lowest-common-denominator scrap of pop-culture that I attributed to destroying this country's average intelligence quotient. Social media was like a virus. It perpetuated the kind of shallow understanding of the universe that comes from mindlessly "Sharing" and "Retweeting" drivel from Rush Limbaugh, Bernie Sanders, Rachel Maddow, and Perez Hilton without the least effort to fact check or engage in critical thinking. Facebook was bad enough. This new thing that blasted out 144-character statements of rubbish to the entire universe, was emblematic of all that was wrong with this fifteen-nanoseconds-of-fame-mad, reality-TV-addicted, ADD-addled, gullible bunch of sheeple that populated this once-mighty nation.

Then the 2014 World Cup came. . . . I had a moment of weakness; a moment wherein I compromised my values. . . . I signed up for a Twitter account.

The primary reason for it was to read in-match commentary from the kings of all sound bites and catch phrases pertaining to the glorious game, the @MeninBlazers. But it grew exponentially from there. I quickly followed all the key figures in the world of world football. I regularly blasted @GrantWahl with whom I disagreed on almost everything. I favorited @IanDarke with whom I agreed on almost everything. I enjoyed practicing my German reading skills following the exploits of the die Deutschenationalmannschaft via the @DFB-Team.

In-Match Meme's? YES PLEASE!!!    -    The heady early Twitter days of the World Cup

 I was hooked. I followed every second of the matches both on the television, with my Twitter app up on my iPad perched right next to my line of sight. I cursed the WatchESPN app 3-minute game delay in which my Twitter feed exploded after @MatsHummels scored the game winner against @FFF (France). I gloated alongside Germans in real time from half a world away with every minute of the 7-1 mauling @DFB-Team laid upon @CBF-Futebol (Brazil). I checked Twitter every night before bed to ensure I didn't miss any latest news on injuries or another exploit of newest @AmericanOutlaws #WillFerrell. I also learned all those cool things called hashtags and why everybody had a run-on name starting with "At".

Following the World Cup, I couldn't give it up. I was addicted to football. I fully immersed myself in fandom with my new-found love and awesome club @BVB (BV Borussia Dortmund 09). I followed the team, I followed the players, I followed the fan groups. And don't even get me started on the August transfer window's final days!

After about two to three months of tweets, I started to see reciprocation in the Twittersphere. I noticed "Notifications" that popped up that someone out there was actually listening to my ridiculous little blurb or shameless plagiarizing of another's work via Retweet. People "favorited" my statuses. These were like tiny little boosters of self-esteem, injected like a drug. I secretly liked these small tokens of reassurance from people I had never met nor would probably ever meet. I felt almost dirty as it severely compromised my entire pre-conceived notions of the platform. It was then that I understood the power of Twitter and its appeal.

My personal media campaign against Qatar 2022

My tweets became more frequent. They started to be less about expressing myself and more about seeing how many people would favorite a Tweet of mine or getting my own Tweet re-tweeted by a legitimate famous person! I felt disgusted with myself! But I continued on. I used Twitter as a mechanism to target FIFA sponsors over the Qatar World Cup and their despicable human-rights record. I used Twitter to connect to other @BVB fans from the middle of nowhere Kansas, the very definition of fly-over country, and the most un-refined, un-cultured place I have ever known.
As with every obsession of mine, the passion with which I engage it ebbs and flows. The Winterpause certainly curtailed much of my Twitter addiction, though I must say I have paid more attention to my Premier League team, @LFC during the holidays. My conflicted view of Twitter has arrived at some sense of resolution. All of the negative aspects of the use of social media are very much pertinent. But what harm is there to use it for good, and in moderation? Is there anything really wrong with feeling joy when you get "Followed" by @EmbassyDavies (Michael Davies from Men in Blazers) and by @BVB? What is really unsavory when you derive pleasure from having actual (albeit confined to a 144-character reply) conversations with @ClarenceGoodson, @AleBedoya17, or @stuholden? I think nothing.

Twitter: The only place where Michael Davies will follow you for posting something humorous about @ChelseaFC, and your heart will race for a microsecond when you find out that “Marco Reus” … but not @woodyinho follows you.
@BVB: Where the club follows YOU too
Twitter, like Facebook has a legitimate purpose and can be a force for good, without compromising ones core values. Facebook has allowed me to check in with long-lost friends without the awkwardness of personal meetings exposing the reasons why they are long-lost. They have allowed me to keep in contact with closer friends and family while my career takes me all over the world. Just because Twitter has become the poster child for everything I see wrong with this country … or should I say the mirror that exposes the ugly truth of our American society and culture, the medium is not inherently evil and fulfils a purpose by those with the necessary discretion to use it properly.
I recently read something on ESPNFC wherein the author bemoaned how the exponentially growing inject of money over the past 30 years has created a gulf between footballers and the fans that pay their ever-expanding salaries. Twitter and social media help close that gap. I may not be able to stehe Ich hier und singe "Borussia! Borussia BVB!" in the Südtribüne at the Westfalenstadion, but I can join in the camaraderie of their global fan-base using Twitter to follow the latest news and find an emotional outlet to this important part of my life. After all, here, on the windswept prairies of Big12 country, I have no other.

-Josh's Twitter handle is @hallj78 and is known as BVB Kansas

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