Free Friday: Cold Turkey, No Fun and the Dissection of Social Media

Free Friday: Cold Turkey, No Fun and the Dissection of Social Media
August 18, 2017 Daniel Rhodes
In Free, Free Friday

By Chris Rowland and Daniel Rhodes.

Here is our weekly round-up of five extracts from articles or comments that have appeared on the site during the past week.

This is just to provide a flavour of the debates our subscribers get involved in during the week. There’s a Subscribe tab at the top if you’d like to join us. 

1 – Simply Red’s forensic examination of the world of social media:

First match of the new season and we are already doomed. That is, if we were to listen to the social media world and let that represent reality. I am mildly amused but not quite incredulous about the reactions to one match in a 38-game season. The former is because I think we have actually improved on last season on the whole. Our attack is now more incisive and the options available are many and varied. Yes, the timing and accuracy still need work, but the intentions and movements are clearly reflective of a potentially slick attacking machine. These are reasons to feel positive, even if the defence is not quite ideal yet. As to being not surprised about the reaction, just like the election of Trump, it is actually a logical consequence of the world we find ourselves in. The collusion of a technology-enabled frenzy has culminated in an impatient, demanding and being-in-the-moment-tops-all mentality. This comment is an attempt to understand this world a little, and to suggest what we can realistically do something about it.

The first book that I came across that warned of the negative consequences of a highly connected world, essentially through various social media platforms, is ‘The Shallow’ by Nicholas Carr. Since then, there are a myriad number of books and articles on the same topic providing more extensive perspectives and a decent amount of research data. What’s pertinent here is the assertion that the medium through which we interact contributes significantly to how our brains get wired and re-wired. There are findings which indicate that reading online, with hyperlinks, ads and images, as oppose to reading the same content on printed sheets, has led to a more shallow understanding of the material and lower retention of what has been read. In fact, engaging online has the effect of making us more distracted, impatient and irritable. Generally, it makes us demand to have answers ‘now!’, and to deal with things quickly. For instance, I think many of us have probably experienced a strong desire to clear our emails and feel stressed when we have not checked the inbox for all of 5 minutes. These re-wiring of the brains seems to be real effects. In fact, one of the worries of early childhood educators is that the reduced time spent actually holding a pen/pencil to write on paper will likely lead to a reduction in the hand-eye coordination development of the young child. If true, our future football matches could be quite comical to watch.

The effects of writing no more than 140 characters on twitter forces the brain to over-simplify and focus on the ‘essence’ of those 140 characters. This limited amount of words cannot generally convey the complexities involved, particularly when the topic under discussion is multi-faceted. As such, the simplification has a tendency to latch onto the emotional content of those short sentences, allowing our individual imagination to be activated according to our own beliefs and bias. When such emotional content ‘resonates’ within a large group of people, it gets elevated and lodged as ‘truth’, propagated ad infinitum in spite of the fact that the underlying understanding is often muffled, contradictory, and incoherent. This lack of content is well demonstrated when policy ideas are shared in twitter to energise the ground, but comes up empty when it is time to formulate, let alone implement, the ideas.

We live in the social media world now. Unless we make conscious efforts to disengage from these global connections, there is seemingly no escape, at least until the next version of twitter equivalent becomes the norm, which could be worst. The question then is what can we realistically do to keep ourselves sane, and perhaps in the process create an alternative version of social media that we can live with? I can think of two passive and one active responses.

Quit twitter and platforms that, as someone here has already mentioned, have high level of mostly unproductive and detrimental noise to signal ratios. This is possibly the simplest thing to do, although it has its own pitfalls. Taken to extreme, it would mean that we stop engaging in perspectives that differ from ours. Living in such a cocoon is peaceful and helps to keep us sane. Unfortunately, if we are not careful, it could also lead to less open and inclusive discussions/debates. Nevertheless, it is one way out. A second possibility is to accentuate the positives and let the negatives have time to encounter daylight/reasons, ie. a kind of quick to praise but slow to curse attitude. This is not to say that we should not engage in criticism, but perhaps to hold back a little till the emotion settles and then be constructive about it. The emotions during and immediately after a game can be debilitating, particularly after a bad result (whether due to the team not playing well, an off-side goal, and/or clearly bad refereeing decisions). By not engaging immediately in emotional outburst on the social media will help not to create a positive feedback of bad vibes leading to collective depression/mental breakdown. Perhaps this can help us stay sane for the whole season and many seasons to come.

A more active response is to take a leaf from what the right-leaning political faction did since the 70s when they banded together to create the conditions for perpetuating their ideas. They created think-thank, funded research that favour their views and seize sufficient broadcast bandwidth to continually put forth these ideas. Engaging the twitter world or some such, when done on an individual basis, is almost impossible. In this post-truth world, precedence has been ceded to emotional content rather than the veracity of the content. If we were to band together, create evidence-based materials, and shout it back into the twitter world in a consistent, coherent and coordinated manner, there is a chance that these ideas can take root. And over time, perhaps serve to bridge between emotional content and evidence-based content. Importantly, engaging in such an effort require that those involved do not get emotionally engaged in mindless debate. The idea is simply to continually broadcast facts-based ideas come what may.

There are probably many other more viable ways to response to the twitter world. The above are just some possibilities. At the end of the day, while TTT provides a sane and mature place to debate/discuss LFC, there is another world out there that we cannot totally ignore, but can be judiciously engaged positively, especially as a community.

Thank you for reading, if you have reached this far :).

2 – Divilmint posted this beauty about the come-down of fan expectations:

I enjoy Twitter – but only because I don’t talk to other people there.  I limit myself to watching funny cat videos, hold my beer gifs and random factual stuff.  One such fact, that I haven’t checked but I have no reason to suspect its veracity is that 4 out of the last 7 champions failed to win their first match.  Klopp has a win percentage of about 50%.  We fail to win as often as we do win.  So why did this “failure” feel so bloody horrible?  I couldn’t see the match because I had to work but I listened on the radio when I could, and didn’t enjoy the experience much.  In fact if I had of been online at the time there would have been an even money chance I might have had a moan because that match, for me, offered a negative experience grossly disproportionate to it’s importance.  Why?

I’ve been missing LFC all summer.  Friendlies are like methodone.  They’re only acceptable when you cant get the real thing.  When we miss the football over the summer we are missing the highs, the elation, those jump out of the chair, beer spilling, dog scaring, sudden, guttural, gleeful roar of victory moments.  The electric buzz, the empowerment, the man hugs, the validation of a Red identity, the mano et mano, the mainlining adrenaline, seat of the pants, mach 2 thrill ride of the thing.  Football is a drug and if you care enough about it to pay someone to have a place to talk about it then you, I and all of us are junkies.  We Junkies were promised a fix…… Well no we weren’t actually promised a fix but with use of twisted junkie logic skewed by 3 months of cold turkey and acute performance anxiety it sure as hell felt like we’d been promised a fix.  I was expecting ecstasy and instead it felt like I was force fed a bad acid trip with flashbacks of the team’s least proud moments from the last year.

The problem wasn’t with the team.  It wasn’t down to Klopp or Philgate, it was down to me and my unrealistic expectations of what being a football fan is.  If mid-season we had come from behind away from home only to drop 2 points to an offside goal of course it would have stung.  Not exactly the same I know but Man U away last season is my recent benchmark for that feeling.  Sure I was angry and disappointed after that match but I never considered taking a season of football then even though it was a much bigger game.  Saturday evening I wasn’t sure I could be bothered with football anymore.  I was seriously asking myself if a season long break would improve my quality of life.  It had promised so much and delivered so little.  I had worked myself into such a state of expectation that when I was brought me down to earth with a bump, my arse was sore and I was deeply, deeply unhappy about it.  Had I not been at work I’d have bitched and moaned to anyone who would have listened.  Like any addict my arguments would not have been logical.  They would be self serving, blaming of other people, disingenuous and possibly spiteful undertones.

Had I seen Shakespeare’s ghost in my bad trip he no doubt would have chided me that The fault dear Divilmint is not in our stars but in ourselves.  I’m human so I make mistakes.  The fault in myself was to expect something divine from a bunch of people who are also human.  I respectfully suggest that on Saturday I may not have been alone in this.

No one spends the summer pining for bad refereeing decisions, being out muscled and off the pace or looking forward to groaning at misplaced passes.  We all know negatives will happen yet somehow we allow them to be whitewashed in a wave of our own optimistic expectation.  When it comes to supporting LFC I have the emotional maturity of a 13 year old boy.  Again I suspect I may not be the only one!  I admire the work of Paul and other’s on here who have learned to temper their considerable passion with a streak of rationalism and can think through the emotional roller coaster whilst still enjoying the ride.  I cant.  I, like many others, have to get off the ride before I can sensibly reflect on it.  That in my view is why Saturday was an emotional outlier and why it produced so much negativity from across the fanbase.

TLDR: My 13 year old inner junkie paid out all his positive emotion on a long overdue fix.  Fix wasn’t as expected.  Inner junkie now devoid of positive emotion so threw a tantrum.

My Twitter mileage will be worse without you Paul but I understand why you decided to end it.  Arguing with over emotional idiots is draining and I don’t think there has ever been a recorded case of anyone changing their mind about anything on Twitter so why waste the energy.  Fuck ’em then.  As the great American philosopher-poet T A Swift once said “Haters gonna hate”.

As for me I’m going to try to become a more Zen like supporter.  This time next year I want my inner fan to be at least 14 years old.  Hell in this one post alone I’ve ticked off about 5 of the 12 Step Programme.  If I can just get through Tuesday and the transfer window who knows what might happen!

3 – Bobbypits on the dilemma Klopp finds himself in:

It must be incredibly frustrating for a manager to have to deal with the job of building a team capable of challenging for silverware, spending hours on the training ground, hours with players, hours researching and studying opponents, hours crafting strategy and scouting future potential, dealing with the sporting development and nurturing of an individual’s talent only to wake up and realize that all along the only person who the player truly believes in or listens closest to is the money grabbing – shit stirring agents whose total lack of interest in anything other than money has ruined and will continue to ruin players and teams. It’s symptomatic of the games demise and one which defies belief and is turning fans into the angry mob.

i am someone more interested in the evolution of a team a philosophy and long term development players being part of a process and fans yielding the results of this endeavor – it’s hard to accept and equally hard to enjoy a ‘process’ that is so corrupted by people who don’t give a shit. Powerlessness is the most pervasive emotion in today’s game and I believe it infects many and most fan opinions and interactions.

I feel for Klopp right now as I believe he feels this powerlessness acutely. PC’s role in damaging preparations for our first game of the season undoes an entire preseason meticulously planned to get our best team into a winning position. Fine you can argue that the rest of the squad should be professional enough to deal with things like this and get on with the job in hand but yesterday’s draw screamed to me of mental fatigue and damaged team spirit – it took us a long time to get up for it yesterday.

Like Klopp I want this sorted tomorrow – poisonous elements and self interest need to be isolated and removed quickly.

Liverpool FC finds itself in a very tricky position in that players do not regard the club as the pinnacle of their ambition on a global stage and therefore will always cast glances at more ‘attractive’ propositions- especially with agents whispering sweet nothings in their ears.

it has nothing to do with the owners and there should be no misinterpretation of a clubs actions in moving players on – the simple truth is that if they are damaging to the manager, the team and results, they should be dealt with swiftly. Klopp needs all our support as his ambitions are closer to our own.

4 – Anthony Stanley in one of very many excellent responses to Paul’s articled about leaving Twitter:

Firstly, another masterfully written article. I read it last night on my break and so couldn’t comment as I was straight back to the madness of my job. But all the way home, your words – to paraphrase your apt description of Twitter – were in my head like an echo chamber.

I have long wondered how you, or people in a similar position, put up with the toxicity, the negativity, the sound and the fury, of Twitter. I understand that you have to have a voice and promote your work (and that of others) but I suppose everyone has their breaking point. Respect for lasting so long, I know I couldn’t.

It’s the very thing that first prompted me to start posting here; this is the antithesis of Twitter. In some ways, the medium can be good but more and more I find myself scrolling through Twitter and just shaking my head; the polar opposite to the majority of times on TTT when I’m like a nodding dog reading the majority of posts and articles. I respect the opinion of the majority of people here and would like to think that that’s reciprocated.  Twitter? Right now, I’m at a loss to justify why I bother. And I don’t have to put up with any abuse or frothing bile as I’m almost completely anonymous on the medium.

Once, I questioned a moronic statement – not about football – when someone said that suicide was the ultimate in cowardice and that those who took their own lives left devastation in their wake. While few would doubt the veracity of that, the tweet than said that someone who took their own lives was a ‘cunt’. I tried to point out that the workings of the human brain is still a vast ocean of ignorance to even the most learned of scientists and that a bleak, black dog called depression could strike anyone – for a myriad of reasons. I got called a cunt.

The quote ‘I fear the day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots’, possibly erroneously attributed to Einstein, has never been so apt. As a father, I find the future terrifying. Not, the spectre of nuclear conflagration or humanity becoming more and more embroiled in hatred and myopic racism as politics seems to veer inexorably to the right. There is that, sure, that’s a worry.  But we, as a species, have faced similar ordeals. A cursory glance at the winter of the world that was the twentieth century (read Niall Ferguson’s War of the World if you ever want an enlightening, but depressing, commentary on that particular century) tells us that the current plight of humanity is far from isolated. But it feels keener now, because of technology, because the world has never been smaller, because we are bombarded with soundbites and worrisome developments on a minutely basis. But what actually terrifies me is the future our kids will inherit. Will reading become superfluous eventually, for example? Something that I’d imagine most on here have gotten countless hours of pleasure from could, if we continue on our trajectory, eventually become a relic. I recently had a Facebook chat with Daniel Rhodes when he rightly slammed the absolute sham of a show that is Love Island. When Daniel, during the chat, mentioned Aldous Huxley, and that the author of Brave New World was onto something, I shamefacedly admitted that I’d yet to read it. Have a look at what Daniel posted from a Wikipedia page and try not to shiver at the future we’re relentlessly hurtling towards:

‘What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.  Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.  Huxley feared that those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.  Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.  Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.  Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.  Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.’

Terrifying. The explosion of Twitter, and yes, it can be a valuable resource, is symptomatic (to me at least) of the ocean of vacuity that we are all swimming in now. Where’s previous generations used their (for most, very limited) free time to shuffle off to the Globe or to attend a concerto or to read the latest epic from Lord Byron or to even attend a dance, we watch Love Island and the X Factor or scroll moronically through Twitter (sometimes simultaneously).

We have become utterly desensitised. Paragons of the written word used to be the stars of previous centuries; the aforementioned Byron was treated like a rock star and wrote words of genius that huge tracts of today’s population would struggle to understand. Literary lions like Dickens released serialised novels of such popularity, that the release of one edition caused riots that resulted in fatalities. Now, we revere (or are at least fascinated by) a fucking Kardashian.

And I’m not exempting myself from this. I do all my reading on my phone as mostly I read at night when my wife is asleep. So I lie for hours reading books on my phone but cannot stop myself from, every ten minutes or so, delving back into Twitter, shaking my head, and going back to a book.  Insane and the actions of an addict. Worryingly, I recently went on holiday were I knew there would be no broadband or 4G. While I enjoyed the break from Twitter, I was also a bit antsy as I wasn’t getting my fix. Moreover, I bought Lawrence Rees’ newest book on the Holocaust (as some light holiday reading) in physical form and found I struggled to keep my concentration reading something that wasn’t on my phone.

I’m sorry if this is all very bleak, but Paul’s wonderful article prompted my brain to go into overload last night. But then, as I always preach to my kids, self awareness is fundamentally important to us. Both individually and as a species.

To completely segue back to football, most people here know how much I want that league title and that can lead to much of what Paul mentioned in his article; the angst, the I-want-it-all-now mentality, the wailing at the injustice of it all. But I can always guard against that; the desire for the league is, in some ways, the engine of my passion for Liverpool but there is far more to it than that.  There is pride in supporting our unique club and even a grim sense of paradoxical satisfaction when friends start to gloat about United winning 4-0 or Sky going into paroxysms of delight at the same result.  Crucially, there is that self awareness. I refuse to let a bad result – something I have no control over – ruin my day or weekend. It stung like fuck when Watford equalised (not that an away draw was a bad result, even if it felt like it), but I still had the rest of the day with my wonderful kids and my wife. I still went to the flicks later that evening to watch Nolan’s latest masterpiece (and, boy, was that a perspective giver). And it’s all about perspective. I can be an educational snob – one of my biggest failings – but I’m convinced that the more one is educated (or well read), the less an individual will rant incessantly about things that are essentially utterly inconsequential.

Football – or, to me, Liverpool Football Club – is the icing on the cake of life, not life itself. It adds to my enjoyment of life but so does Ian McEwan and Irvine Welsh, Elbow and Jeff Buckley, films and Game of Thrones, PC masterpieces like The Witcher, gigs with a beloved spouse, days out with kids, teaching a five year old how to read (OK, the last is a stretch). But there is so much more to life than footie, and while it gives me huge joy (and no little despair), I know I could actually survive without it. Enjoy where we are, who we are and this wondrous and utterly unlikely state of being called existence.

Paul, enjoy your break from Twitter and look after your health. Fade back into the background, to a degree, and recharge those batteries.

5. Per Dantic sent us this article, and here’s a snippet from behind the paywall to entice you in to this realm of anonymously deconstructing The Cliche of the Commentator

Picture this. A commentator meets someone with a knife and a ‘happy’ face. Are they still so sure that ‘You can see what it means to him’? I don’t think so. He can see what they feel about what it means to them, but he still doesn’t know what they are ‘happy’ about. Are they ‘spread-happy’ (maybe infused with embarrassment), or are they stab-happy (perhaps reeking with confusion)?

How inside the head of a footballer can you get?

How he feels is on the outside and visible. What it means to him is on the inside and invisible.

‘What it means’ to a footballer could be any one of a hundred different things. Here’s a random sample 1) ‘We’re winning now’. 9) ‘Maybe everyone will forget how badly I’ve played so far’. 16) ‘The gaffer will be over the moon’. 27) ‘I bet the lazy pundit will make me man of the match just for that one thing I did’. 43) ‘That will help my contract negotiations’. 67) ‘I can’t wait to see that on TV tonight’. 85) ‘I didn’t know I could do that’. And we mustn’t forget that there could be more than one meaning for him at the same time for heaven’s sake.

Articles published on the site this week:

Monday August 14th:

In-Depth Scouting Report: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, by Daniel Rhodes.

17/18 Champions League Playoff | 1st Leg | Hoffenheim (A), by Gary Fulcher.

Football Is No Fun Anymore, by Paul Tomkins.

Tuesday August 15th:

Premier League Radar Round-Up – Week 1, by Andrew Beasley.

Wednesday August 16th:

Philippe Coutinho, FSG and Game Theory, by Mark Cohen.

Thursday August 17th:

The Secret Pundit vs The Commentators, Part 1: “You Can See What It Means To Him” by Per Dantic

Premier League Preview 2017/18 | Matchweek 2 | Liverpool vs Crystal Palace by Chris Rowland