It hits like a flash mob. You’ll have your Twitter feed running in the background, you’ll check it periodically (the length of the period depending on the level of your obsession), and you’ll see the usual stuff coming at the usual speed. Twitter allows each of us to create our own set of people to follow, so each feed looks different, but we all know what a “normal” day looks like on Twitter for us. In my case, I get lots of stuff about sports, and stuff about television, and stuff from friends. Then, suddenly, one of the people you follow takes part in some instant meme, like #RuinAKidsMovie. Let’s see, in the last hour, I’ve seen Beauty and Bestiality, Bowel’s Moving Castle, Mary Poppin Pills, Sex Toy Story, Shitty Titty Gang Bang, Scat in the Hat, and Lady and Her Cramps, among others.
Your Twitter feed becomes overwhelmed with these jokes, some of which are great, but in totality, they make Twitter an awful place to visit. Luckily, the flash mob moves on eventually, and things return to normal, until the next meme strikes.
Sometimes, it’s not a meme. It’s just the nature of the social media beast. ESPN is running an ad that claims during the World Cup, there is only one time zone:
Twitter is a perfect place for virtual hanging out with millions of like-minded folks. This is especially true during real-time events … when there is an earthquake, I always go straight to Twitter to see who else felt it … during political actions, participants and observers can report using Twitter … and, of course, during sporting events that create “only one time zone”, everyone can join in simultaneously.
You get mini-videos like this, showing worldwide Twitter usage during the match between Ghana and the USA:
(If you didn’t know where Ghana was, that visual would tell you in seconds.)
If you are not a fan of the event taking place, this stuff seems like a nightmare meme. Instead of Sex Toy Story, you get “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!” tweets turning up a couple of dozen times on your feed within a few seconds of each other.
The excellent Rob Neyer, well-known baseball fan and expert (and apparently a non-fan of soccer), posted the following tweets in succession:
Wow, all the identical tweets after every goal have me hoping that U.S. gets eliminated quickly.
hahaha fun making a small joke and seeing which people think I should "go back to Russia"
Seriously, question to my friends: Why tweet exactly the same thing that thousands of others are tweeting? This is a professional matter.
We’ve all been there, at least all of us who frequent Twitter. And it’s annoying when we aren’t in on the party. But Neyer struck a nerve with soccer fans, who tend to have a pretty thin skin when it comes to their favorite sport. Hard to tell if folks were being tongue-in-cheek, but Neyer was told he “hates the country” and was labeled “Worst person today”. Finally, “KinnerMode” wrote, “The game-winning USA goal was amazing…but that doesn't make
Think about similar situations in “real life”. The neighbors are having a party, and people are enjoying themselves … the music’s playing, the conversation is happy, people spill out onto the back porch. You’re sitting at home reading a book. You might feel happy for your neighbors, but you might also think, “Damn, it’s loud!” Or you go to work on a Monday, and all anyone wants to do is talk about Game of Thrones, and you don’t watch that show. You might feel happy that your workmates have something to bond over, but you might also think, “Can we PLEASE talk about something else?”
That’s what Neyer was talking about. He’s checking Twitter just like any other day, and he probably has a lot of sports fans on his Follow list, being that he is himself a sportswriter, albeit one who specializes in baseball. All of a sudden … maybe he’s watching the Royals’ baseball game, maybe he’s thinking about the great baseball player Tony Gwynn, who died today … maybe he’s not paying attention to GHA-USA because he’s not a soccer fan, not even of the World Cup. And then … BOOM! John Brooks scores for the U.S., and Rob Neyer’s Twitter feed explodes with dozens, hundreds, thousands of frenzied fans, all tweeting some variant of “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!”
Maybe you are one of the many of us who rejoiced at Brooks’ goal, maybe you shouted your joy on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. And it felt wonderful to know there were all those other people watching the same thing at the same time as you, inspired to Tweet at the same moment that you were inspired to do the same. Twitter becomes our virtual pub.
But Twitter isn’t that place on the corner that people go to when they want a beer. No, Twitter is a pub in your backyard, full of people even when you are doing something at home.
After Clint Dempsey’s goal, 34 seconds into the match, one person tweeted, “Grateful not to be watching this in a bar.” And she is a fan! I knew just what she meant … sure, I jumped up and shouted and stomped on the floor at my house more than once during the match, and yes, I was happy to share those moments with people on Twitter. But I appreciated the virtual aspect of the camaraderie. And I don’t blame Rob Neyer if he experienced multiple simultaneous GOOOOOOL! tweets the same way I experience the flash-mob memes of #RuinAKidsMovie.
Meanwhile, there are still people who actually watch the games in public, and there are television stations there to report on it in real time, just like Twitter, only with pictures!