Twitter, and its part in Liverpool’s downfall
In May, Twitter revealed that it has 140 million active users worldwide. They didn’t say how many of those accounts had ever retweeted a joke about Stewart Downing, but it’s safe to assume that it’s most of them.
Twitter is immediate. It is ruthless and merciless. It mocks misfortune, underperformance and the downright embarrassing. In short, it usually mocks Liverpool.
It was at it again on Saturday, as the Reds kicked off their Premier League season with a 3-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
It was a strange game. West Brom probably deserved to win it but certainly not 3-0. Gary Neville, in his excellent punditry slot on Sky’s Monday Night Football after Everton had beaten Manchester United, noted that it was somewhat of a freak result. The Reds were comfortable until Zoltan Gera’s bolt from the blue gave the Baggies the lead shortly before half-time, and suddenly in a haze of red cards, penalties and missed chances the game was gone.
Other than the kit and a couple of new names the first league match of the Brendan Rodgers reign wasn’t overly different to many of Kenny Dalglish’s games last season, and the hysterical reaction on social media channels was much the same.
Even now at the time of writing, some four days after the game, a GIF image of Jamie Carragher being knocked to the ground by Romelu Lukaku has just popped up on a popular Twitter account with over 50,000 followers. It will be retweeted to hundreds of accounts and then passed on to even more, all in the name of laughing at Liverpool.
On Saturday afternoon a #RodgersOut hashtag appeared as the details of the match at The Hawthorns were being relayed to those who had seen nothing but the scoreline.
Those using it were largely doing so ironically – although Twitter does have an alarming capacity to introduce you to every village’s idiot – but it has long since been decided amongst the social media masses that this is how Liverpool fans react when their team loses.
Some do react like that.
It stands to reason that a club as big as Liverpool – surely the second most-supported in the UK behind Manchester United – will have a large selection of fans of all beliefs and mentalities, of which reactionary is certainly one. A few Liverpool fans make ridiculous comments, they get retweeted hundreds of times by those who like embarrassing the club, and suddenly thousands of fans are supposed to hold those same beliefs, be they naïve, foolish or in some cases – especially during last season – unashamedly provocative.
That these comments usually come from those who appear to rarely set foot anywhere near Anfield shouldn’t be discounted, but what should is the belief that all supporters feel the same way.
Liverpool – a club who have turned making bad decisions into an art form ever since sacking Rafael Benitez in the summer of 2010 – might just be a bit unfortunate that their most turbulent times have come during the social media boom, when every wrong move is laid out there for the world to see.
Inside Anfield there still remains a mostly intelligent support which realises just what a tough job Rodgers has in picking up the pieces at a club who nearly went to the wall in 2010.
Visiting teams are frequently applauded off the pitch when they’ve achieved a good result – as they seem to do more and more these days – but there is no doubt that the belief that the club’s support is respectful and knowledgeable has been diluted by the presence of fans on Twitter and across the Internet. As the team has faltered, so has the reputation of the support.
As a whole, the club have gone through tough times on and off the pitch since Benitez guided them to second place with 86 points in 2009, and it seems an awful long time before they’ll be back anywhere near that sort of haul again.
Rodgers even suggested that there will be more results like last Saturday’s to come before it gets better.
Expect to be reading about them in 140 characters or less.