What Twitter exposes about us

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup in its latter stages. I have to admit that I didn’t watch the group matches, but as the United States made its way through the quarter and semi finals, my eyes were glued to some sort of screen.

As an aside, if you’re ever in doubt of being in front of a proper television screen during a sporting event, check to see if ESPN3.com will carry the event. I’ve been impressed. But watch out for obscure internet providers not being on ESPN’s list of ‘online carriers’.

Ah, the world’s game.

The scope of international soccer makes my blood boil in a good way. I live for the moments before major matches where anthems are played and tears are shed by players who have worked for years to achieve the very standing presence to compete as true world champions. The fact that the USA women’s team has achieved such standing as champions twice allows fans of the men’s team to live vicariously through our women’s team, as the men’s team has rarely made a competitive stride toward the World Cup Finals.

And, for each of these picturesque moments, there is a nasty underbelly of international soccer’s reputation that threatens any upstanding reputation. Old stories of upset fans killing international players over an own goal, violence from an own goal, stampedes – the mob can be a dirty and frightening one when unleashed.

Part of that underbelly turned over during the women’s final last week. I was enjoying the commentary played out online with many of my contacts on Twitter about the game (hell, even a toadie for Obama was live calling the game). The World’s game was getting a major advertisement, as Japan and the USA battled fairly and with dignity on the field. It was probably the cleanest tournament finish I’ve seen in a long time.

The dirty underbelly

Then my attention was turned to trending Twitter topics of match day, which included ‘Japs’ and ‘Pearl Harbor.’ My stomach wrenched a little, and I wasn’t alone. FIFA’s (the governing body of world soccer) game day advertisement of “Say No to Racism” sadly had a place on the air. Generations later, and we the mob can’t focus on the recent tragedy Japan has faced, rather we drag back to racist quotations from WWII. I suppose it’s not any worse than the Australian renditions of “There were thirty German bombers in the air” that I heard during World Cup celebrations during the ’06 cup.

Still, I don’t like it. And rather than just sneer in disgust as many of us did, online influencers might want to take this as a wakeup call to the role that social media (and specifically their presence in it) plays in influencing public opinion.

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