Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Join the conversation? Not anymore

When I first joined twitter I jumped in and played around, followed a few people, joined in a few conversations, built up a network and really enjoyed it. That’s worked really well for me, and by and large it’s what people will tell you to do.

This week, Darron Gibson did the same. A few of his friends were on twitter, he joined in, and dabbled around. But he got quite a lot of abuse, and 2 hours later closed his account.


Darron Gibson however is a professional footballer. He’s not a high profile player, but he plays for Manchester United who are a high profile team, so his profile is naturally raised. Darron Gibson isn’t one of the club’s better players; in fact in most supporters eyes he’s probably not good enough for the club. When the team plays badly and he’s in the team, he gets the lion’s share of the blame. He can’t really be held responsible for the team’s form on his own, but as he plays in midfield and his role is largely to keep possession of the ball and control the game, that responsibility comes with the territory.

It’s wrong he got abuse like he did, even worse that it came from his own fans who saw his opening up to the public as a way to vent their anger. That is wrong. Officially, the line is that he joined twitter, couldn’t see what the fuss was about and left, but no one is really buying that.

It made me think about this idea of just joining in with the conversation. And whether that applies to celebrities and those in the public eye.

There’s two sides to the story I think.

Celebrity is a strange thing – especially in top level football in England. The players are now so far detached from the fans that any relationship is non–existent. I've heard stories of how in years gone by, players would ride with the fans on public transport to games. There's no way could that happen anymore. If players are making an effort to re-engage with the fans through social platforms, they should be applauded.

But celebrity polarises opinion, more so now than ever before. With the amount of discussion that goes on around football in England and celebrity in general, there’s no way that all opinions are ever going to be positive. And the reactionary nature of social media is such that often things are typed before brains are engaged. Plus it’s easy to be a keyboard warrior and hide behind a screen.

Which brings me back to my original point – can you just jump in and play around on social media anymore?

I think the average person can and should.

But if you’re even remotely in the public eye, I don’t think that’s possible anymore. The intensity of the spotlight that is placed even on low profile players (such as Darron Gibson who has never invited or courted that attention) is just a sad part of the way things are. In the same way celebrities learn how to deal with the press, they now need to learn how to deal with the open communication channels between the public and themselves.

That for me is the key. They need to be taught an awareness of what’s going on outside their celebrity bubble (again - an environment they may not wish to be part of, but are by association) and what that brings with it. I don’t think that’s right, but I think that’s the way it is.

Communications have opened up. The internet and social platforms have done that. With that comes a very steep learning curve. Unfortunately for Darron Gibson, he got left on the steepest part of that curve without a rope to pull him over it.

Which side of the fence do you sit on? Was it right or wrong what happened to Darron Gibson? And have we got to a point now where there’s a difference in the way celebrities can expect to use social platforms? Should they expect this abuse, and accept if comes with the territory? Comment below with your thoughts, or tweet me @mazherabidi.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think what happened was right or wrong necessarily, just symptomatic of our times. The power of Twitter is that everyone and anyone can communicate with everyone and anyone who is on there. Whether individuals choose to listen to or engage back with those who do approach you is up to that person. But with the presence of celebrities and politicians, etc, astronomically raising the popularity and notoriety of Twitter, the most recent example being Charlie Sheen, more and more people will flock to it to use Twitter as a platform to observe/abuse/vilify/praise/stalk, etc. I guess it comes with the territory. Being celebrities, maybe they should ask their peers/PR agents for advice if they feel they're not thick skinned enough to take what may come.

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