Social Media & Football

Social media’s role in the beautiful game

Social media has changed the way we live our lives and revolutionized the way we consume sport. On the face of it, it is an incredible tool that allows us to connect with Liverpool fans around the globe and share voices and opinions with anyone who will listen. As a collective, Liverpool supporters have a greater audience of those with a common interest than most. It affords those who wish to be heard a healthy platform to do so.

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Yet for all the positives and opportunities social media provides to bring people together, it has also been a source of evil that strikes at the heart of its own very purpose. From trolling to in-fighting, social media has shone a negative light on football supporters (us Reds very much included) and tarnished an otherwise powerful means of communication.

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It has frustrated me for a while. At times I’ve considered logging off altogether. But as someone looking to carve out some sort of future as a writer being able to consistently monitor the mood of the fanbase is a necessary chore.

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The most recent example, and ultimately the inspiration for this piece, was the announcement of Tyler Morton’s new contract. Morton is a local lad who has impressed when called upon for us. More importantly, he is currently midway through a successful loan spell with Blackburn Rovers much like Harvey Elliott did.

Anybody in their right mind would see that news as positive for the club and be pleased that the individual in question is living his dream, right? WRONG. I didn’t even need to delve into the replies to foresee the tone of the majority. “Sign a midfielder” and “FSG Out” predictably plagued every LFC social media comment section. Some even dished out personal insults towards Morton for not being a shiny new toy. A youth product not being a £100 signing is somehow his fault. Even if that’s what you wish to spend your time making noise about, there is a time and place and this wasn’t it.

The Transfer Chatter Effect

The modern-day obsession with transfers and the constant need for freshness has made it nigh on the impossible for the 21st-century football fan to ever find true happiness from the whole venture. It is a phenomenon that can likely be traced back to the emergence of FIFA Ultimate Team, Fantasy Football, and Football Manager among others. In a society of instant gratification, established players are boring while new players are novel and exciting.

That brings us to Mr. Jude Bellingham. This is the dream for us all. The England youngster would be a generational signing who would transform Liverpool’s midfield. His potential has him in the discussion to one day become one of the best we’ve ever seen. Every single social media post that the club puts out sees his name pop up. But as is often the case with Liverpool’s Twitter army, the campaign to bring him to Anfield has crossed a line.

Mark Bellingham, Jude’s father, had to block a number of Liverpool supporters following streams of replies on his posts. It is borderline stalking and achieves nothing but make the club look a little bit weird. Jokes used to be made when fans went through a phase of tracking flights in order to gauge the likeliness of transfer links, but at that time it was all fairly good-natured and humorous. But there is always a point when it needs to stop. Pestering a prospective signing’s family is far beyond that point.

Internal Affairs

The extent to which this generation preoccupies itself with transfers leads many for some reason resenting current first-teamers on social media for simply existing. The scapegoating of Jordan Henderson, our only captain to have lifted every major trophy, has been the most disturbing for me but there have been plenty of other instances to pick from.

During his run here, Neco Williams saw himself targeted after a 7-2 WIN over Lincoln. It prompted the full-back to “black out” his social feeds. Just let that sink in for a minute. A 19-year-old backup right back felt the need to block out waves of abuse after a VICTORY. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. We are living in a world that facilitates the amplification of that. But this sort of behavior is a million miles from the ethos that makes you a true Liverpool supporter.

Perhaps the heights Jurgen Klopp helped us reach left us all spoiled. We are well within our rights to expect the best from our club. But the rate at which we won between 2018 and 2020 caused many to feel more uncomfortable with defeat than sheer logic would dictate.

A Bit Of Perspective

Liverpool picked up 103 of a possible 105 points across an eleven-month period. We may never see that again in the sport let alone from our team. It was the greatest time in our lives but has left us in the middle of meltdowns and post-mortems whenever they have the cheek to drop points. The title-winning season was amazing but it skewed reality. One team isn’t supposed to win that regularly and if they did the sport wouldn’t be as popular as it is.

There is very little room for enjoyment if this is the way you choose to live. Liverpool must win every fixture or sign only world-class players for extortionate fees every window. If not you are left frantically bashing on your keyboard. It’s idealistic for me to say, but that is surely no way to live.

I remember the bus back from Arsenal after the 3-2 defeat earlier this season. At the point where it appeared the Twitter Reds were falling over themselves to berate the players and owners, beers were flowing and singing rang out all the way back from London. It was an afternoon I remember fondly despite the outcome. Of course, we were disappointed and I appreciate that this comes from an extremely privileged position of being able to share the moment with like-minded individuals when many don’t have that luxury or opportunity to vent, but despite what Bill Shankly said Football doesn’t have to be life or death. Being angry all of the time doesn’t make you more of a fan. This is a leisure activity after all.

Social media can be a force for good. There are tens of thousands of wonderful Liverpool supporters online who make it so. It might not feel like it currently, but we are still watching one of the greatest teams on the planet. If you can’t enjoy the outcomes then have some fun on the journey. Not being able to do so will leave you questioning what you’re really in it for.

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