There can be no doubting the impact that social media has had on the way we digest football nowadays. Fans opinions spread free and easy across the numerous sources available whether it be internet forums and blogs (like this) to social networking and micro-blogging sites like Facebook and Twitter. The options are vast; it’s just a question of how much you can or want to take in. Fans aside, even some footballers have stepped out from the comfort of their ivory towers and made themselves directly contactable by virtue of a simple ‘Tweet’. Charlton’s very own talismanic skipper, Johnnie Jackson, is amongst them, and he’s not alone, with Euell, Hayes, Solly, Evina, Hamer and Sullivan all regular ‘Tweeters’.
Up until quite recently I’d stubbornly resisted the whole Twitter thing. I’d tried Facebook some years back and quickly become disillusioned and Twitter was just not appealing to me one bit. But its was when Charlton played away at Yeovil over Christmas that my wife advised me to try Twitter as a way of keeping up with the action whilst at a family doo. It was a revelation! The club’s official Twitter feed provided the up-to-the-minute partisan coverage I needed and furthermore, alongside that in glorious unison was the views of my fellow Addickted. I felt close enough to the action to celebrate wildly when Green bagged a late winner!
Account created...off and running. The big question for me, is for how long?
The trouble is, no matter how credible and valued some fans opinions are - especially in defeat when you seek some sensible and measured perspective - there really are some idiots out there. Last Sunday there was even a young Addick actually calling for Powell’s head via his Twitter account, claiming ‘we need to get someone in for the remaining 7 games’! When some people’s views are so incredibly ludicrous from the outset, I just don’t have the desire to even question it, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t annoy me.
But perhaps the extreme differences between the benefits and downsides of the growing trend towards social media could not have been more evident following the awful Fabrice Muamba incident a few weeks back. Just as your faith in humanity took an almighty leap forward as the greater ‘football community’ rallied in support, so the rug was pulled away by the undercurrent of society’s most despicable idiots that came crawling out of the woodwork with their knuckles dragging on the floor behind them. These extreme and deplorable views you have allowed into your own personal space by simply ‘logging on’. You’ve only yourself to blame if the opinions offend or leave a bad taste: you have invited them in after all.
Whilst I was out running the other day I did wonder about how things have changed. My mind instantly flashed back to May 98 and that monumental day out at Wembley. Back then my only line of communication was my phone, which done two things; made calls and woke me up (it was also the size of a house brick)! It may well have offered a text service but another few years would pass before I mastered that function! No built in camera, no internet access or links to social networking sites (which hadn’t been invented, of course). It’s almost inconceivable looking back that I felt content with a verbal ‘good luck’ from my Mum as I left home that day and a voicemail message from a good friend after the match. I’d even stopped off on-route to buy a disposable camera from which the site header image above was created; no such luxuries of digital cameras. There was no forums with which to revel in the victory with your fellow fans and no blogs such as this to give a more personal account of the day. Nowadays, aided by my iPhone, I can freely interact with fellow fans via Twitter before, during and after the game should I wish, and furthermore, I have the technology on my phone to video a moment in time that could be posted on my blog or YouTube account for the entire world to see (if they knew where to find me!) within seconds of the event taking place.
The last time Charlton gained promotion back in 1999-2000, fanzines like ‘The Voice of The Valley’ or ‘Goodbye Horse’ would have been the media source linking fans. So different now.
As one who can appreciate the changing times, I have seen great value in areas of social media where following Charlton is concerned. Never have I felt so connected with my fellow fan (other than that idiot who calls for SCP’s head) and never have I looked forward to celebrating alongside like-minded people.