The John Terry trial provides further evidence of the way that social media has penetrated every form of news coverage and the integral role it can play in the distribution of information.
Reporters such as Dan Levene, or as he is known on Twitter @blueschronicle, have been providing minute-by-minute accounts of this week’s trial giving people comprehensive and instant coverage of the case.
As a blogger, access to eyewitness accounts of events in real time is a monumental development that allows us to put our thoughts into writing instantaneously without the risk of accidently rehashing the usual primary source of information —the journalists with their traditional methods of collecting news.
As a fan, Twitter gives us access to players, clubs and journalists that was unthinkable even 10 years ago.
Role of Players on Twitter
The players on Twitter offer an insight into the mind of a professional, reminding us that they are human and not necessarily as perfect as we would like to think.
There is a lot of egotism on Twitter. The players of the big clubs instantly rack up hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of followers, giving them a platform to promote themselves and boost their self-esteem.
Players such as Joey Barton and Rio Ferdinand may have grabbed the headlines in this way but they don’t hold that much interest. In my view, it is the younger players and more reserved pros where the insight and interest lies.
Some professionals still treat Twitter as a personal rather than marketing account, posting messages about every aspect of their daily lives including the football they play and watch.
The messages they post give us a perspective on their daily routine, the training pitch banter and their footballing acumen, on occasion providing unprecedented insight into a previously elusive mind-set.
This access however has come at a cost; some footballers are not especially intelligent in the messages they post to the public domain, offending their employers or sections of society.
Twitter is a democratic tool; anyone can use it to direct a message at another user. That means that for every message of support, there are a handful of trolls to counterbalance it with a negative comment.
Internet trolls thrive on negativity and attention — something that footballers provide in equal measure. They have driven many current and former pros away from using Twitter, and risk ruining a democratic and inclusive media.
Whilst Twitter should not just be a fan club extension for players, the emotive and tribalistic nature of football means that players find themselves abused without logic. This abuse frequently goes beyond the realms of acceptable behavior both on- and off-line.
Therefore we sit at a crossroads that is changing. I think we have already seen fewer footballers engaging in Twitter. And when they do, it is sometimes commonplace for this to be carefully structured marketing.
End of The Twitter Golden Age
Whilst the access to information is instant on the web, the trolls are winning and the golden age of Twitter for football fans is coming to an end.
This will mean that the role of journalists as the distributors of information will be slowly restored as the first-hand access to information dwindles for the man on the street.
This would be a crying shame.