By Paul Tomkins.
Someone totally unfamiliar comes up to you in the street. He knows you, but you have no idea about him. He seems to be referring to something you once said – although it may not be clear what that was – and opens with “that’s bollocks”, or “that’s rubbish”. He sounds rude. There is nothing about his language that suggests we are having a friendly debate, or even a conversation.
If you are sane, you probably want to get away from him, pronto. You probably feel slightly offended, and are certainly put on the back foot.
Last night was a case in point. I made a comment on Bolton’s penalty, saying that contact isn’t necessary for the award of a foul. People went fairly ballistic at this fact. Even though Zach Clough was probably not taking the evasive action necessary for the award of a penalty – see Steven Gerrard having to literally hurdle a late tackle in 2006 versus Sheffield United for the perfect example of a penalty being totally justified without contact – I maintain that if you jab your foot out in the direction of a player and miss the ball, and that player goes down, you’re likely to see a penalty given (which makes Raheem Sterling being clattered in the box, week after week, all the more galling).
And a player can dive and be fouled at the same time; the foul is slight, the contact exaggerated. Again, in the 2nd minute Raheem Sterling ran at Bolton’s goal, was pulled back (not enough to fall over), and whilst being pulled back he lost control of the ball (as you would). The referee gave nothing. Eden Hazard has taken to just dropping to his knees in such situations, and I can’t really blame him.
Now, you may disagree with my view on whether or not it was a penalty; I don’t think it definitely was, I just think that clumsy or late tackles are there to be penalised. But did it warrant the following reaction?
(Bear in mind I instantly blocked some worst ones, which won’t appear here, and this is just a selection in what felt like a deluge of disagreement, some polite, some not.)
This happens to me quite frequently on Twitter, and I block them. Many of the examples aren’t seriously offensive, but they represent a form of communication that shows no respect.
Those I block often then get very offended (sometimes Tweetbot on iOS still shows me tweets from blocked people), and accuse me of being unable to handle criticism, or indeed, that they “did nothing!”. Last night, when I threatened to block lots of people, one guy said that I was abusing my position. Er, what position is that? The last time I looked it was “Private individual on social media”.
There seems to be this misapprehension that as I’m a ‘public figure’ (well, that’s what is says I am on Facebook), I have to put up with all manner of rudeness and ignorance. You put yourself out there and, like fans within a football stadium, people can shout what they want at you – but god help them if they get some given back.
I appreciate that women often get worse, as most of the abuse is from men, and particularly men who hate women. (So I wouldn’t want to be a feminist football writer who, for some reason, despises rape.) But even then I’ve recently been called a “nonce” by a woman on Twitter, so it’s not just men.
I want to be on Twitter to follow interesting, funny and intelligent people, and, where time and energy permits, I’m quite happy to enter into polite dialogue with those seeking to do so (although I’ve given up trying to reply to everyone as I just can’t do that; I’m sorry if it seems that I’m ignoring you). Nowhere does it say that I have to put up with trolls, idiots and – it has to be said – bores. If I bore you, fine; you unfollow me. But if you bore me by spamming my timeline with 37 tweets on a subject, I’ll mute or block you. You have a right to try and talk to me, and I have a right to ignore you, for my own personal reasons. I don’t have to justify that to you. I am not public property, for you to treat how you wish.
A lot of the time someone will say something rude or disrespectful, or downright nasty and hostile – as if I was someone they hated, who got retweeted into their timeline – and when I click to block it says that they are following me. Even those who say I’ve never said anything worth reading in their lives. Then don’t fucking follow me! I’d rather have fewer good followers than a high number of bad ones, believe me.
For instance, a while back I tweeted about another penalty incident. “Stop whining”, came a reply from someone I didn’t know. Usually I’d just block someone for this. It’s not especially offensive, but it is rude; it’s not a polite way to tell someone that you disagree with what they’re saying, is it? I don’t expect “I respectfully disagree, Paul” but I don’t have to be spoken to like an errant child.
I have been spoilt by the discussions on TTT these past six years. Yes, it’s with likeminded people, so there aren’t many flaming rows – although it can still get heated – but I mostly want to interact with likeminded people. That’s my choice. Just like you might go to the local pub where people know and like you – and have a discussion where you may disagree with each other – rather than the one where they want to impale you on the pool cue. At TTT we do reasoned debate, not aggressive posturing and trolling.
My views are challenged on here, with people disagreeing with me. Which is fine, we can debate. If you view football in a totally different way from me, and haven’t put the time in researching the facts, then, to be blunt, I really don’t want to hear what you have to say.
I learn a lot from TTT, and even though a lot of people share my overall ethos, I am corrected on certain issues and challenged on others. I also learn a lot from people I follow on Twitter. However, I don’t tend to learn a lot from the people who message me on Facebook and Twitter, other than they don’t know enough to be talking about the subject. This is not to say that I don’t also get good replies – I do; just that the bad ones tend to be noisier, and they make me want to not talk to the general public.
The main point, however, is that I’m sick of people being abrasive to me. It doesn’t have to be deeply offensive, but dozens of people being rude to you on a daily basis can be draining. I’m not saying I’m not capable of being rude too (and on the few occasions I’ve been rude I expect to be blocked), but I don’t want to feel on the defensive during my time online.
If you say that I’m ‘spinning’ something then you are insulting me. I am not an apologist of anything, I merely speak what I see to be the truth. If you disagree, fine. No one pays me to toe a party line, no one puts pressure on me, no one feeds me info. I am not ‘in the know’.
Also, everyone is entitled to an opinion, apparently, but I have no time for opinion that is not based in fact. For instance, creationism. If you are the creationists of football debate, kindly fuck off.
I’m putting this on the site so that I can refer back to it with anyone who doesn’t seem to understand how it all works. It will make it easier and simpler than trying to explain it in 140 characters, time and again. The crux: I’ll talk to who I want to.
My novel, The Girl on the Pier, is out now. Click here to buy it.