Friday 19 January 2018

Too much noise, too little sense

John O'Brien

IT'S tempting to think that in rapping the knuckles of those who had called the sanctity of last week's football qualifier draw into question on Twitter, GAA president Liam O'Neill was striking a much-needed blow for the curmudgeons among us who see the social network tool as another dagger in the heart of civilisation as we know it.

In fairness, O'Neill took some care not to portray himself as an out-of-touch dinosaur even as he lambasted those who had, probably inadvertently, called the GAA's integrity into question. At one point he seemed to suggest he was the first person on the planet to use email, but something obviously got lost in translation there. He wasn't out of touch. "It's not," he said, "that I am gauche about the thing."

For sure, O'Neill probably came across a little bit stiff and over-sensitive in the comments he made, but his warning to players to think carefully about the consequences of what you put on Twitter was a timely one and, anyway, you don't have to run the risk of being called a hapless luddite by wondering what exactly Twitter has added to the world beyond the creation of a few more dot-com billionaires.

There are those who claim it spreads awareness, starts revolutions and even brings down governments. Well, prove it. Wasn't it on Twitter that poor Ger Loughnane was read his last rites a while back and where the snooker player, Mark Allen, maligned the entire Chinese nation as being ignorant? Allen, a pleasant and smart individual, isn't on Twitter anymore, having painfully learned the danger of publicising every stray thought that enters your head.

It's not all bad, of course. For those athletes, for example, who plough a lonely furrow in individual sports or who travel a lot, social network sites make a welcome change from watching reruns of Friends and The Wire. Even a confirmed luddite can see that. The trick seems to be, though, how to wade through the endless pap to get to the good stuff. Is Twitter not the online version of people endlessly chattering about nothing on the street? Too much noise. So little sense.

Consider something else too. Think of what Kilkenny have achieved in hurling this past decade and guess how many of their players use Twitter? Well, none as far as we can tell. A young Kilkenny player was quizzed on this subject recently and didn't seem entirely certain what Twitter actually was. Maybe Kilkenny's collective focus is so sharp they don't require lectures on the perils of social media, but you can be sure Brian Cody would deliver one if the need arose.

Now, maybe all that means nothing much at all. Maybe the Kilkenny players need to lighten up a bit, live a little, sign up for Twitter and join in the gaiety of the nation. Somehow we can't see it, though. The smart money says they are happy with their lot.

Sunday Indo Sport

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