Just a few summers back, keeping up with all things Leeds United online was a very different experience; WACCOE dominated the rumour and virtual chat landscape, a towering monolith that cast its shadow over competing forums. On the social media side of things, Facebook similarly dominated the habits of the majority. Since then an alternative has emerged, one that melds the best aspects of both mediums while sparing us the worst. Welcome to twitter.
Are you wanting to chat more about our beloved club, but you neither have the time to keep pace with often spiraling threads on WACCOE, nor the stomach to wade through page after a page of text-based infighting?
Maybe you want to expand your social circle without necessarily opting into a constant bombardment of holiday snaps taken by relative strangers? Furthermore, could it be that you have no interest whatsoever as to whether these people ‘like’ Amazon, Domino’s, Stella Artois or any other company who’ve chosen to b***tardise Facebook with their corporate agenda?
In short, if you want to know what’s going on with Leeds, if you want to chat with people about what’s going on at Leeds, but you don’t necessarily want all the bull***t that goes hand in hand with it, maybe twitter is the answer?
My decision to join twitter was made in the aftermath of the 3-1 humiliation at St. Mary’s at the start of the 2011/12 season and due to my omnipresent need to bemoan the state of our club; with two years under my belt, it still serves that purpose perfectly, but has also offered so much more. What follows are my experiences of twitter life and a guide to getting the best out of it for those looking to take the plunge.
Twitter is deceptively easy medium to master; the constant references to terminology like ‘hashtag’ may intimidate some, but that in itself is a good thing. Away from the endless games requests and sponsors messages on Facebook, the most disturbing trend of recent times has been the increasing adoption of the site by the older generations – being sent friend requests by aunties, uncles, parents…it’s not a good thing. Twitter on the whole still provides a sense of social liberation; far fewer luddite, older relatives are prone to showing up on the timelines and even if they do, user names can still provide a degree of anonymity should you want it.
Who to follow
Twitter essentially functions on two levels; it allows people to stay in touch with the lives of the rich and famous and socially significant, but also functions as a social tool.
For Leeds fans, it provides a very fluid way of keeping abreast of events at the Elland Road; the club now has its own twitter presence, while Thom Kirwin, Phil Hay and Adam Pope can all be relied upon for a regular stream of updates.
Away from the essential media figures and the odd footballer – step forward Andy Hughes and Robbie Rogers – the rest of the ‘who to follow‘ process is pretty subjective . On the surface, the most compelling LUFC tweeters tend to be those who are followed by more people than they follow, though this is a very rough rule of thumb (unless you regard pretty girls posting endlessly posting pouting photos as a worthwhile pursuit) and one that many of my favourite people don’t adhere to.
In terms of building up a following of your own, then a degree of tactical following is what I would recommend. Many Leeds fans like to collect followers, wearing those stats almost like a badge of honour and will immediately ‘follow back’ to preserve their numbers; they can provide a very useful gateway into twitter and then as your own following grows, so do the conversations and your own profile…from there, everything tends to take care of itself.
Who to avoid
While everyone has their own ideas, I would look to avoid the following…
- Anyone who uses hashtags such as #LUFCfamily, #LUFCFollowTrain: these hashtags are employed solely to bolster the followings of people who on the whole have nothing of interest to say about the club and are seeking likeminded individuals.
- Those who beg for retweets: Retweets when used properly serve a good purpose; they provide a platform, bringing informative or amusing tweets to a wider audience, when Leeds fans beg for retweets they’re almost always aimed at Ross McCormack and entail a photograph of a dog in sunglasses and a Leeds scarf.
- People who in their profile claim to be MASSIVE Leeds fans: Just because…
- Anybody who claims to be ‘in the know’: They aren’t.
- Piers Morgan: again, just because…
- People with an appalling command of grammar (well, maybe that’s just me!)
Like on Facebook, twitter offers you the option to ‘mute’ people; furthermore, you can eradicate any specific words or hashtags of your choosing, liberating your timelines of any content that makes you question the meaning of existence, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution or indeed your own sanity.
It should be noted that the ‘mute filter’ option is not available with the official twitter app, but can be found on most others. Trust me, it’s well worth seeking out!
The less judgemental side of social networking
One of great beauties of twitter lies in the fact that it’s a far looser, more informal environment that Facebook. You can choose to follow who you want and unless they have a private account, you don’t have to seek their approval. Equally, because twitter’s not an instant gateway to photo albums, employment details and the like, it’s not necessary to view every new follower you receive with a degree of suspicion…though if you do manage to invite a weirdo into your virtual world, there’s always the option to block their access in the aftermath
With twitter you can tailor and continually refine who you follow to meet your exact needs; while my ‘followed’ list almost exclusively consists of football fans, not all of them are included for their worthy words – on the contrary, some I find compelling for the utter rubbish they spout, a couple on the grounds of their need to wash their dirty washing in public and another on the grounds of being a sad old pervert who’s still chasing teens; variety is the spice of life!
A modern day soapbox
Before twitter, my perennial moaning about LUFC was kept within the confines of a small (and ever receding) circle of Leeds fans, but as more and more people began to indulge my moaning so did the insatiable desire to moan even more, and so, through the medium of twitter, a regular writing slot in The Square Ball followed, then a blog…I’ve even sold the odd t-shirt! If you’re looking for an audience, you can always find one here.
The social side of twitter
The social aspect of tweeting is something that I never foresaw, certainly not to the degree I’ve experienced. Having gained one of my closest friends through chatting on a football message board, I always anticipated meeting up with the odd person over time for a pre-match beer, what I didn’t expect was that I’d be spending 10 days away in Slovenia, exclusively in the company of seven people, all of whom I’ve met on the timelines.
In all, I must have met in the region of fifty people who I’d initially first spoken to through twitter; pre-match drinks are now always had in the company of fellow tweeters, away days are also arranged with them, nights out too. If anything stands as an effective vetting tool for prospective friends, it’s chatting through a medium that allows you engage with strangers with the unspoken understanding that you never need have to ever again if you don’t hit it off. It’s like conducting your own, safe, harmless, virtual social cleansing experiment!
Pre-season in Cornwall last summer is what first brought the power of the medium home to me; because of my friend’s difficulties in getting time off, I faced the trip alone, but on every match day I had company in the form of others I’d befriended on the timelines. On the days between matches, I could simply put a tweet out asking for recommendations over pubs and places to visit and be inundated with suggestions. Without twitter, places like Perranporth and Porthcurno would’ve remained undiscovered gems.
Twitter though, as much as it was all about Leeds at the start, has become rather more than that; just as I wasn’t expecting a bit of online chatting to have such an effect on my match day experience, I really didn’t count on some of the more profound friendships I’ve built up away from the public gaze of the timelines. In a twist of events that some of those closest to me probably find confounding, a few close tweeters have voluntarily opened up to me, telling me the most personal of things. I’ve been party to some of the most upsetting and heartwarming drama of in the lives of people who initially started off as nothing more than an avatar and a twitter name.
Indeed the two people who’ve become the most essential elements of my twitter experience and my two most trusted confidants are two people I’m still to meet (don’t worry Foo, you’re a close third! x), although hopefully that’ll soon be rectified in both cases. If texting and direct messaging has become the substitute for talking, then I’ve definitely struck gold…twice.
They say you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends and I guess that rings true. However, if you want to make an even better fist of things on the friendship front…and like an audience for bitching, I’d consider twitter.
For @lil_zilla, @MissFlorentina1, @FooWhiter, @THORNO_, @leahlufc, @JoEntwistleLUFC, @lozzlej, @fcuk81, @introskeptive, @ScarlettLouiseG, @lauraclark23, @m31anie, @MoscowhiteTSB, @DanLambert_, @DMason86, @ClaireHeeley, @TanyaSullivan90, @rdholmes82, @jonhowe1971, @Guysley, @YICETOR, @webeatscum1_0, @Brac4773, @mrplufc, @simentwistle, @ArticReviews,@SwissWhites, @LeedsonTour… and apologies to the rest!
…oh and @jenberlufc – love ya, Dipshit! 😉
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