Listening On Twitter Is (Apparently) Optional

PREFACE: On weekends, I have been trying to cut back on the time I spend on Twitter. As a Twitter sports reporter/sports-social media writer, that’s not an easy task, especially on fall weekends. But, it has helped me to step back a bit to evaluate where social media is in the sports world. Even during the week, I’ve found myself reading tweets more than ever.

There are more people in sports on Twitter than ever before. What used to be easy is no longer on Twitter. I could follow multiple conversations with ease. While I can still do that, it’s not without its challenges.

This post is by no means my final thoughts on the subject of Twitter. Social media, Twitter, technology is constantly evolving. What we thought about it two, three, four years ago shouldn’t be what we think of it now. My thoughts on Twitter, in particular, are…evolving.

I don’t believe it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Not even close. It will continue to grow. It will continue to itself evolve on its way to its IPO.

Sports and Twitter is also evolving. While this post may seem critical or negative about it, it’s more of a “putting my thoughts on paper” exercise. There are times when I need to do that. Get my thoughts written down to sort it out. You can probably tell in some of the writing below, but it was necessary. By no means am I a Twitter-sports expert. But, I do have a solid amount of experience in this area.

Am I wrong in what I wrote? Maybe, maybe not. Time will tell.

***

In 2009, Twitter was exploding. In 2010, Twitter was exploding. 2011, 2012, 2013 – Twitter exploding into the mainstream has been a constant topic of news organizations, blogs, tech sites, etc.

Even before 2009, there are stories of Twitter’s explosion in social media circles. Today, in 2013, Twitter is commonplace. It’s part of the conversation when it comes to politics, religion, entertainment and sports.

I joined in 2009. I’ve seen the growth and evolution of Twitter. Whereas people used to give you funny looks when you mentioned Twitter, nowadays, it’s a routine talking point. Water-cooler chatter taken online, if you will.

I call Twitter the world’s largest sports bar. Hang out with millions of others (friends and acquaintances), talking about the game you’re watching. Cheering together or arguing with each other over that big play or blown call. Kind of like hanging with friends at a sports bar.

I’ve also called it message boards meets sports bar. The anonymity of message boards becomes public, so to speak, on Twitter. Create an account without using your real name and, instead of a message board, spout one’s opinions in a public forum without much repercussion.

This evolution of Twitter, at least in the sports realm, has been fascinating. Think of the millions and millions of opinions from not only those aforementioned message boards and sports bars, but add in sports media, passionate non-message board fans, boosters, alumni and casual fans. Anyone with a computer/mobile device and an internet connection can tweet about the game. The officials. The coaches. The players. The schools. The fans. The media. Or, in some cases, the family of coaches.

The question is, how long will it last? Obviously, Twitter is more than just sports. I believe, however, that it has been a major key to its growth since I joined in 2009. But, while it has obliterated the walls between fans/media and fans/athletes, it’s also slowly becoming a negative place when it comes to sports.

Think of the message board scenario I mentioned earlier. Places where like minded individuals can go to share ideas, celebrate victories, commiserate over losses or band together against others who oppose or criticize them.

It was this thought I had in mind when reading tweets this past weekend. Ohio State defeated a severely outmatched, Florida A&M team, 76-0. Apparently, with the game clearly in hand for OSU, the Buckeyes went for it on fourth down. After the game, the Buckeyes and their coach, Urban Meyer, were called out for that move or, in other terms, classless. I’m not here to debate the move. But, the mere idea that anyone would call fans’ beloved school or coach “classless” offended many a Buckeye.

It reminded me of Sports Illustrated’s recent series on Oklahoma State. There was great debate across Twitter, Facebook, radio, tv, podcasts, websites – you name it, the series, the alleged inaccuracies, T Boone Pickens’ response, it was discussed. Understandably, Oklahoma State fans, alumni, supporters were all outraged. But…

Message board mentality unites. Twitter draws the lines of demarcation.

You’re either with or against. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It only matters what “I” think. If “you” don’t think like “me”, “you’re” wrong.

It’s that current climate that has me concerned. I’m concerned about what Twitter is becoming in sports. For me, I prefer not to discuss politics and religion on Twitter for that very reason. I’ve seen too many people blasted for their opinion or  belief. People don’t want to listen and dialogue about opposing viewpoints. It’s all about being heard. And it’s part of sports now on Twitter.

Why?

Because people have tied their identity to their school or team. Attack someone’s school or team, and the masses may revolt against you. Any negative comment about one’s school/team is perceived as a criticism of the individual person. Call Ohio State “classless”, alumni/fans/boosters take it personally. Write a negative story or a critical tweet “my” school or team, it is automatically discounted.

Someone once told me that even if you disagree with someone, there’s at least 10% that is true that you might need to listen to. Agree or disagree, the idea behind it is being willing to listen. With everyone tweeting, is anyone listening, even if it means negative truth about one’s team/school?

I say this to me too. Am I listening?

If nobody is listening, why be on Twitter in the first place?

***

CadChica Sports

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