I’m writing a piece for www.football365.com today about Barcelona which, in essence expresses how frustrating I find their football; how, though it is technically brilliant, it just doesn’t stir my football passions. I find it quite clinical and cold while admittedly highly skilful. OK, it’s the sort of football some people like but it just isn’t my ideal watch. I prefer something with a bit more physicality. It’s horses for courses, right? We don’t all have to be the same, we take that for granted in life, don’t we? Not on the Internet you don’t.
As I write this it’s not been published yet but I know that it will inevitably lead to a lot of people insulting me and saying I’m an idiot and worse for basically not sharing their view that Barcelona are wonderful. This is the childish but very modern way – saying, if you do not share my opinion you are de-facto wrong and not just wrong but a fool, an idiot and actually a complete c*nt.
A few others will agree – but such controversy tends to attract the negative much more than the positive response.
Now, if you’re a reasonable sort of person, the idea of insulting someone on the Internet probably seems a bit of a daft thing to do. After all, you really don’t know them, you’ve probably not paid to read their point of view, you have nothing invested in what they say and thus, it really doesn’t matter to you if they say something you disagree with. In return, they won’t care what you an anonymous individual is saying anyway, thus, calling them an idiot would, at least to the more calm, reasoned reader, be somewhat inappropriate and worse still, a total waste of your time.
Having a contrary point of view is one thing, expressing that is fine, but pouring vitriol onto a writer on message boards and blogs is quite another.
I’m used to this by now – after 10 years of writing online its all so much water of a ducks back – I keep a duck handy for just such occasions, however, the reasons for it interest me greatly.
In my book We Ate All The Pies, I discussed this phenomena in terms of it being an extension of the old banter on the terraces; banter which ironically is less present than ever inside football grounds today.
Insulting the opposition is a well established football culture which I totally understand and I used to think that this is was an extension of that.
However, I think the modern culture of emotional Internet-based outpourings are evolving into something else; into a way of life almost. There are keyboard warriors everywhere who love to give a volley of abuse to anyone who crosses their path. What do they get out of it?
Perhaps its a way to empower the essentially dis-empowered. Perhaps it gives people who express vitriol online a way to release all the negative emotions that build up in their regular lives; to lay off some of their self-loathing, anger and disasisfaxtion. Happy people wouldn’t do it, would they?
Here’s some bloke on the Internet expressing a view you think is wrong so you let him have it with both barrels in the full knowledge that unlike in any other walk of life the person you are insulting will not do anything about it. It’s a free hit.
However, being rude to people on the basis of their expressed taste in football from the loneliness of your own computer seems to be, in essence, a very sad thing. Should it really matter that much? It’s not like at a game when you can get caught up in the high drama and emotions of a match. This is all done in the cold light of day by people who are keen to assert their view as the one and only truth.
I find that very odd. I read lots of blogs and newspapers and it never occurs to me to write in to disagree with a point of view, let alone start calling them a moron. I can’t see what I’d gain by that. Isn’t it really just a waste of your time? I can see why someone would contribute to a debate and express their own experiences. But if you pop over to F365 now, I’m guessing that you’ll read a lot more than that underneath my piece on Barca. I imagine I’ll have been accused of being the reason England never win at football – that’s a common one and my view on Barca will soon will be reduxed into being the reason behind all manner of sporting and social ills. Such is the hyperbole deployed on such Internet kick fests.
I’d like to think this happens to me because I’m good at writing stuff that makes people feel passionate, but the truth is almost everyone who writes online suffers from these occasional tirades of disproportionate and inappropriate savagings. I’m sure if Charles Dickens was writing online there’d be people posting ‘ more of the usual Dickens crap about the working class, f**k off Charlie we’re sick of you and your whining about poverty.’
I only raise this because it seems to go by without much comment any more. We’re all used to it on both sides of the fence – and discount it as all so much hot air – indeed I bet most people forget what they’ve written half an hour after posting it. It’s such a disposable culture at core.
But possibly the worst thing about this culture is that it dilutes all the interesting thoughts and ideas; it puts off many who simply don’t want to wade through the slag-fest, reasoning they have better things to do with their life, and thus, the dissemination of insight, intelligence and interesting anecdote is actually hindered and suppressed by the domination of the loudest, must vulgar voice.
And if you don’t agree you must be a f**king moron!