Social Media. It's slowly changed the entire foundation of how we communicate in our everyday lives. It's helped people not feel so detached or alone, it's brought us closer together. As with anything, it has its negatives and can leave tougher, more long lasting scars than when kids beat you up on the playground.
I come to you with a confession. I lost my cool after the Super Bowl. Anyone that follows my Twitter (@Darthkripple) saw that, but worse, I turned most of that anger against Doug Baldwin, who has since blocked me. I'm not angry, I'm ashamed, though I'm not writing this as an apology or to somehow obtain peace of mind. I'm writing it out because I want to put this issue center stage:
Fans interacting with players on social media.
We hear the stuff that gets ratings for ESPN such as the players getting angry and having twitter beefs with fans and other players. Colin Kaepernick retweets his so-called "haters." On a national stage, though, we never shame the bad fans. They escape unharmed most times, unless they say something truly charged with either racial or violent overtones. Something like what I did, tweeting in irrational anger, is not talked about or discussed much.
I love Doug Baldwin as a player and a talent. However, through social media and other mediums I began to sour on the person. I didn't like his comments following the Cowboys loss where he seemed to bury Wilson saying, "We have no trouble getting open."
I let that fester and grow and by the NFC Championship I was fully soured. Several folks tried to calm me down as my tweets on the subject were more and more irrational, broad-stroked and angry. I had chastised Jim Moore for writing an article about Doug's attitude toward the media, but soon realized I felt the exact same frustration. This was quickly followed by the Super Bowl, which just topped the cake with a fat cherry.
I lost it and somewhere along the way I was blocked.
I earned that.
A guy I had once said looked like Steve Largent and had had several amicable tweet conversations with had made me realize I was being a fool. Now unable to send tweets he could read, I had to turn that energy inward and realize that I had acted just how I felt Doug should not. It's a hell of a journey to realize your own hypocrisy.
I know I'm not alone. When I realized I was blocked and tweeted about it, a number of people came forward to express that they too had faced the same result. There wasn't any rational conversation, there was a bit of bitterness and indignation and that finally set me to thinking:
Being a fan is the worst these days.
Before, if I wanted to say something to Doug I would have to go to a game or I would have to send fan mail. (For you kids out there, these are letters written on paper and sent in the mail, you know, that thing that holds amazon packages).
It took so much work that it allowed you to weigh the true gravity of how you felt. Now, everything is so close, so instant, you are Richard Sherman in the heat of the moment and the internet/twitter/facebook are the eager Erin Andrews waiting for your unfiltered response. It's so easy and it's built to feed on your impulsive passions.
In truth, looking at it now, I realize the gravity of that block in the digital space. It's weird to type this out but even if things were some day smoothed over and I forgave myself, I have really lost something. I am no longer a fan who is separated by a television screen or a bleacher barrier, I'm right there and I just basically told a player that I've been a fan of since he was a rookie flashing in the 2011 preseason to !@#* off. Not only that, he heard me.
This is the worst feeling in the world. If I were to meet him, face to face in the future he has no idea who I am but I would know and I would carry the burden of my decision to be angry and irrational and use the privilege of being so close to the players to expel that energy. Now, if I ever met Doug in person, instead of awe or pleasure, it would be one of guilt and self disgust.
So few of us really even understand how this social media is affecting us except in the most extreme cases. Folks seem to think players are obligated to listen to them and their criticisms framed in the passions of losses or a sour taste. The people that came and offered support definitely shared this sentiment in the majority.
I understand now, given time to reflect on it, how Doug Baldwin feels when he says "You don't know me, the real me." I feel like I've lost some opportunity. I don't want others to make the same mistake I did. It's so easy you won't even realize you're doing it at first and then when you realize it has consequences you'll wish you had let it pass.
I used to mock people who were passionate and poorly expressed themselves as idiots. I didn't realize how easy it was to become one of them, and though I'd love to say at least I posted with a higher reading comprehension level than most of those types of tweets, the content was still just as pointless, rage-y and lacked purpose. What did want him to do? Say, "Oh yeah, you're totally right and man I'll post this in my locker!"
I mean, what is it we really want when we tweet these things at players?
What do you want when you tweet to them?