Thursday, August 4, 2011

Social networks, the new soapies for men?

By Paul Frederickson

I have been sick this past week and it has not been the most fun time imaginable, but it has allowed me to catch the madness of the world transfer markets. Twitter and Facebook has been ablaze with the potential coming and goings of the world's football talent. With long pre-seasons for some leagues the rumors and transfer comings and goings seem to satiate football purists until the seasons begin. There is no better place to read about these rumors than on social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. It is these networks that are changing the way we access football information by the very nature of its dissemination. But is it for the good of football?

Whilst rumors occur every year, the rumors seem to have exponentially escalated beyond what I have remembered from the past. Is this due to the rising prevalence of social media and networking that allows the rumors to be spread in a quicker manner and with a higher potential market or am I imagining things? These rumors also seem less trusted than those supplied previously via print media forms, but are spread nevertheless.

Examples from this pre-season have been:

  • The adventures of Harry Kewell in A-League town.

  • Sergio Aguero chooses Man City over may other cities.

  • Tevez looks for his bi-annual payday and transfer to yet another club to his homesickness/missing his children/dislike of Manchester, unsettledness, wishing he had left the season before escapades.

  • Sir Alex and his on-again/off-again interest /disinterest adventures in search of his midfield Holy Grail. Otherwise known as the trial/denial of Wesley Sneidjer at Man United.

  • Fabregas's third season of "There is no place like home", drags on, anchoring Arsenal and making them take their eyes off the strengthening other positions such as the goalkeeper.

It could also be that print media, due to its longer time frames of distribution, has been a traditional source of perceived 'truth' compared to that of social media networks, but this has been eroded somewhat by the print medium slowly embracing the new networks and thus becoming part of the 'rumor network'.

The rumors, true and perceived, have definitely been used by clubs, agent and players to great effect in negotiations. The 'unsourced' rumors of a player being sought by other clubs can lead to contract extensions and higher wage demands for players at their current club. They can also lead to other clubs seeking to purchase players that they may have previously seen as unattainable before the rumors began. They have also brought hope then despair to different supporter groups in rapid turnaround times.

The downside to social media comments is that they can be largely unsubstantiated, easily spread and words of anger or discontent are forever in cyberspace and are not easily retracted. This has especially been the case for Joey Barton whose repeated comments against the hierarchy of his own club has landed him in hot water at Newcastle United.

As Dale Johnson reported:

"It's been a fairly relentless torrent of attacks aimed from Barton, vitriol which began to take on a whole new level when last season's top scorer Kevin Nolan was sold to West Ham in mid-June." (1)

Furthermore, Johnson suggests;

"That said, isn't Twitter a "social networking" site rather than a place to pursue a public agenda against your employers? As Confucius once wrote, silence is the true friend that never betrays." (1)

Then their are file sharing sites such as You Tube where every mistake you make can be cut into mini pieces of shared video, distributed forever more and oft repeated by laughing consumers. Mario Balotelli is one of the best examples of the past few years. Bibgate can be seen below;

Then there is his recent heel of shame;

And finally, his latest quotes about living in Manchester, a move destined to endear him further to Manchester City fans has been re tweeted on Twitter, pasted on Facebook and quoted in online and traditional print formats: "I am not happy in Manchester," Balotelli said. "I do not like the city. With my team-mates and my manager, everything is fine, but the city is not to my tastes. I miss the chance to be at home with my family and with my friends."

Fans now have an avenue like never before to vent their feelings and be heard by the masses in quicker time frames and to larger and often unknown, by the author, audiences. Blogs, for example, allow citizen journalists to express their views without fear of editorial pressures. The opinions can also be quickly spread via social network channels and used by traditional media sources to validate their own footballing stories.

It is important to recognise that many of these blogs, such as the one you are reading, are purely opinion pieces, not necessarily facts. This is the great strength and inherent weakness of the medium. So, for the footballing purists we have access to information at the push of a key, can view online highlights before a game is finished and express our views to thousands of people. What we have to remember is where the information may have been sourced from and even more importantly, anything we post is in cyberspace, forever!

We have access to the 21st century's greatest soap opera, football, on and off the pitch!

Like grass on the football fields of life, these are the days of our lives.

What do you think?