Yesterday Johnny Manziel told ESPN’s Mark Schlabach he was taking a break from Twitter.
“I’ve kind of just shut it all off,” Manziel told ESPN. “With how the media has been with me for a while, I just shut everything off. As of [Monday], I said I was done with [Twitter] for however long. It’s fun to have, but it can get to be distracting at points.”
Manziel’s decision won’t really lessen Johnny Football’s popularity on Twitter — after all, the vast majority of the attention he’s gotten from social media has come from other individuals Tweeting about Manziel’s actions — but it does raise an interesting question, does Twitter become less enjoyable as the size of your Twitter audience grows? And as Twitter grows in popularity is the value of the at mentions declining?
It’s something I’ve wondered about since hearing several high-profile members of the sports media lamenting the decline in quality of their at mentions as their Twitter popularity increases. Yes, expanding your audience gives you the opportunity to massively grow your audience — and I’m on the record as being a Twitter true believer — but it can also lessen the quality of the individual user’s Twitter experience. Scroll through Manziel’s at mentions and it’s like reading a really poorly drafted 7th grade rap. Most of it is unintelligible, gay insults are prominent from the “haters,” and you don’t really come to envy Manziel’s expansive Twitter fan base. Yes, he has a wide audience, but it’s a one-way audience, Manziel can address them, but he doesn’t get much back from his followers. Basically, what’s Manziel actually gaining from his Twitter followers?
Manziel’s Twitter is a one-way street and most of Twitter’s value comes from it being a two-way street, a place where information is shared from both directions. Sure, Manziel’s ability to communicate to a large audience is valuable — he has 332,000 Twitter followers — but does Johnny Manziel really have trouble communicating now? All he has to do is call a reporter and whatever he says is instantly distributed to the masses. Is there much value in the interactive aspects of the site for Manziel? That wouldn’t appear to be the case, at least judging from reading his mentions. And the more famous you become the more deluged you are in absurd and valueless Twitter mentions. Manziel isn’t taking a break from the Twitter side of communication, my bet is that he’s taking a break from the deluge of inanity and hate that represent his daily mentions.
Why slog through these mentions every day when all they do is annoy you?
We’ve already seen another smart and interesting athlete — Arian Foster — leave Twitter because he found the discourse with his followers wasn’t worthwhile. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit left, partly because he found the negativity of his mentions off-putting. Now Herbstreit’s returned to Twitter, but he isn’t as actively responding to his followers. My bet is Herbstreit checks his mentions much less than he did before. Now Johnny Manziel is the latest individual in sports to jump off Twitter because the mentions just aren’t that enjoyable. And I think most of y’all would be annoyed by Manziel’s at mentions as well.
It has to be a little bit alarming for Twitter that the reason why someone like Manziel is taking a break isn’t because of the time he spends Tweeting — he’s only sent a few thousand total Tweets and that doesn’t take very long over the course of years — but because the Twitter community is devolving. Facebook’s already worthless for sharing information. Trust me, it is. Facebook may still be an amazing business model, but it’s annoying and diffcult to use for the purpose of sharing information. Every time I log onto Facebook it becomes more and more like MySpace. This is not a good thing. I’m never going to leave Twitter, but I do think the discourse will continue to decline as the popularity of the site continues to increase.
Eventually dumb people find everything.
It’s not scientifically proven yet, but my thesis is that the dumber you are, the more frequently you Twitter mention someone who doesn’t know you. Also, my thesis extends, the dumber you are, the more likely you are to be a “hater.” I believe those who obsess over things that they don’t like aren’t very smart. I’m not even sure I could be classified as a “hater” of anything. (Stupidity notwithstanding. Edit: Several of you also pointed out that I hate on Dana Brody from “Homeland” all the time. Guilty as charged. I should hate on her more. Because she’s trying to ruin the best show on television.). As a general rule, why would I spend my time hating something, when there are so many things I like. Sure, I could obsessively Tweet over hating a television show — but then I’d have to watch something I didn’t like. I don’t have time for that. Most of you don’t either, we’re all pretty busy. Instead, I’d rather share things I like. I’ve sent over 20,000 Tweets, I’m not sure any of those would be of the don’t watch, don’t listen, don’t read variety. Mostly, I want to share things that are worthwhile.
I’m a lover not a hater.
But Twitter has an inordinate amount of really dumb “haters,” people who spend all of their time obsessing over things they don’t like. It’s astounding to me, but some people on Twitter choose to follow people and things they don’t like and obsessively let you know that they don’t like them. No matter who you are or what you Tweet there is generally going to be someone hating on that opinion. A while back I Tweeted I loved cobbler and there were immediate and vociferous cobbler haters. Seriously, there are cobbler haters out there on Twitter! Who are you people that absolutely hate fruit mixed with sugar and bread? How is this even possible? Even more amazing than hating a delectable treat, many felt compelled to voice their distaste for cobbler to me.
If cobbler has Twitter haters, who doesn’t?
Back when I was involved in the political business — before I wrecked a Congressman’s car, got fired from a campaign, and gave up appealing to stupid people’s votes — I learned quite a few interesting lessons. One of them was this — No matter what’s on the ballot, thirty percent of people will vote against it. You ever wonder who votes against municipal code amendments dealing with trash pick-up or the movement of a primary day? Clearly, no one can really feel that strongly about trash pick-up or primary dates, right? Yet, if you give people the opportunity to vote yes or no, thirty percent of people are voting against it.
No matter what it is, there are haters.
Haters notwithstanding, for someone in sports media like me Twitter is invaluable and necessary; I can communicate with you guys and y’all can communicate back with me. I read every at mention I get all day long. That’s thousands and thousands a day. I don’t respond that often because I don’t have that much time to respond to everyone, but you guys make me aware of tons of information that I wouldn’t otherwise see. Plus, even better, you know what information is out there that I’d like to see because y’all know my taste. No one can keep tabs on the entirety of the Internet, but you guys are my eyes and ears. Outkick the Coverage could not have existed without Twitter, it’s truly been invaluble to our site’s growth. As we approach Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Gettysburg Twitter size — that’s 75,000 followers, FYI — I feel like we’re a finely tuned fighting machine. (This means our Pickett’s Charge could be coming, when I lead you all to slaughter on a one-mile march across an open field as cannon balls decimate our ranks. But I choose not to dwell on this continuation of the metaphor. Hopefully I won’t get us all killed.) For the most part my followers get me, and I get you guys. Those who don’t like us drop off the follower team and we’re none the worse for wear. In fact, we’re better, because the group of followers has actually been culled, we’ve trimmed the stupid fat off our Twitter filet.
Along the way, I’ve only had to block about 100 of you — and I maintain that everyone I’ve ever blocked has clear psychological issues, diagnosed or undiagnosed — but we’re not a massive Twitter audience and I’m not famous enough for the true crazies or the fake bots to swarm. But what about someone like Johnny Manziel, what about other famous athletes in a Twitter age, does Twitter really serve them well? Should they just use the communication form of the medium and not pay attention to the interactive aspects? (Is this even possible? I find it hard to believe that anyone, even the most famous people in the world, truly never check their Twitter mentions. We’re human, it’s almost impossible to resist people trying to communicate with us).
Basically, is Johnny Manziel’s break a canary in the coal mine for Twitter, a symptom of a larger problem in the decline of Twitter mentions, or a blip on the site’s radar, a non-event given attention because, ironically, Johnny Manziel even makes Twitter news by choosing not to make Twitter news at all.
I hope Manziel comes back to Twitter because I think his wit — the decision to go with the fake Longhorn tattoo was great — fits the Internet well. But more importantly, I hope Manziel comes back to Twitter for this reason — he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who lets haters change the way he acts. By dropping off Twitter, is he ultimately letting the idiots on his at mentions win?
I’m afraid the answer is yes.
The alarming question for Twitter is this, will other sports celebrities start to make the same decision as Manziel?
My other pieces on Twitter