Tag Archives: George Orwell

Twitter As Big Brother and Sports Celebrity as Intoxication

This post isn’t about the football star who punched an opponent; it’s about sportsmanship in general, sports business as oxymoron, twitter, YouTube, millions of dollars, and the impact of the ultimate big brother.

The ultimate big brother in this story is a lot like George Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother, but without the malice. He’s just as threatening. But he’s accidental. Twitter et al. We can’t stop it or change it, and I don’t think we even want to. But I’m just in awe of how much the events surrounding this particular punch in the face reflect the huge changes I’ve seen in sports, media, technology, and our whole world in my lifetime.

Last Thursday night, after a game had ended, a college football star punched another player in the face. He’d had an extremely bad night; his team was humiliated and he played badly. He’d been quoted all over the sports media criticizing the other team. And the player he punched had been taunting him. None of that gets him off the hook. His punch was ugly. It was violence, not sport. And sports losses happen a lot, even humiliating losses, without people punching each other. But this post is about him or his punch; it’s about the speed of the information, the distortion of sports morphed with money morphed with very young people being rich and famous. Let me explain.

I watched that game on television Thursday night. After it was over, I turned off the television and moved to my computer to check the world out.

To my shock, that game was all over twitter. The web was following behind, short of breath, but twitter was already all over it. The impact of the punch had risen in twitter to a number one position in buzz meters, and continued so fast – it outpaced even Michael Jackson for a while – that a twitter search couldn’t keep up. I’d search the term, pause maybe 10 seconds to look at results, and twitter search was already telling me I had another 150 tweets to view with a refresh.

Until then I didn’t know about the punch. Within a minute or two, though, I’d even seen it on video. Somebody posted it on YouTube (it’s off now, because of copyright issues with ESPN).

No way to be sure, but I wonder whether or not that kind of thing was happening a few years ago with very few people knowing about it. What if the television cameras would have been turned off when it happened and the sports photographers would have been on their way back to the office to process their photos. If I found out about it at all, it would have been on a slow-moving rumor mill days or weeks afterward. I might never know about it. Would that be a good thing? I’m not sure. Was it as likely to happen years ago? I doubt it. Not as easily. The mix of sport and money has become steadily more money and less sport. And the fame and wealth showered on the stars has been steadily growing.

But this is 2009. So millions of people knew about it. 

As I write this, that football star is off the team. Until the punch he’d been a pro prospect with a pretty good chance to get a pro contract worth millions of dollars next summer. Today, he might still be able to get on a pro team anyhow, maybe, if he’s lucky, and works hard. And it won’t be for millions of dollars. His prospects are vastly reduced. And I’m not saying he got a bad deal or that we should all just look the wrong way. He’s not a victim. It was an ugly, violent punch in the face.  But did his fortunes ever turn around quickly.

  1. Our culture has lost the idea of sportsmanship and replaced it with obsession on winning. At all levels of sport. I let my season tickets drop this year for a number of reasons, but one thing I won’t miss was the spectacle of a whole stadium booing the opposing team when they take the field. That happens everywhere these days, and every time I find myself in a crowd that boos the opposing team, I’m embarrassed. I don’t mind so much the booing of a specific play or a coach’s decision or a bad call by the referees, although that’s also bad sportsmanship; but booing the visiting team just for showing up? That’s plain ugly. What’s even worse is the fact that this behavior has polluted kid sports too, meaning that parents watching their subteen children can be every big as ugly as a stadium full or raging professional sports spectators. Or more so.
  2. Sports business is oxymoronic, but it’s everywhere. For the players its win to get onto the high school team and again to get onto the college team and then again to get onto the pro team and then again to get larger contracts. And then become a coach and win some more or get fired in disgrace. I’ve seen high school coaches make decisions that hurt their kids while motivated, as plain as day, mainly by wanting to win so they could get into college coaching, which would then lead them to pro coaching.
  3. Fame and wealth and celebrity are very powerful intoxicants that our society pumps into some very young people, with very bad results.
  4. The advance of media is unstoppable. I’m not complaining about twitter — I love twitter. But I am saying that the combination of Internet and media and our society’s obsession with celebrity has some tough side effects.

(Photo credits: the first is a still shot from the YouTube posting of Apple Computer’s famous 1984 Macintosh SuperBowl commercial. You can click the picture to go to the video. The second picture is an image by ene from shutterstock.com)

Big Brother vs. Social Media vs. Basil Fawlty

(Note: I posted this first on Huffington Post, and I’m reposting here because this is my main blog. Tim)

Secret cameras, secret Web utilities tracking employees’ Web use, secret phone recording and IM monitoring: that’s creepy. That’s BIG BROTHER: the Orwellian 1984 nightmare. But bosses reading your tweets and Facebook? What’s creepy about that isn’t that bosses might do it, it’s the rest of us complaining about it.

Frankly, my dear, stop complaining. Look up the definition of the verb “publish.” Because social media is publishing. Don’t be unclear on the concept.

Last week Deloitte LLP announced survey results: more than half the employees asked said employers should stay out of their Twitter and Facebook posts. And more than half the employers said exactly the opposite, that they have the right to read your stuff. Apparently few do — who has the time? — but they can.

Kudos to Deloitte LLP for doing the survey. It’s a growing issue. I noticed about a month ago, posting on SmartBlog, Drew McClellan asked: Is your social media presence really yours? She added:

A high-level ad exec puts a multimillion-dollar account at risk because of his tweet.  A long-time Eagles football team employee gets fired because of a Facebook update.  A student teacher is denied her teaching certificate for posting a picture of herself titled “drunk pirate” to her MySpace page.

Don’t tell me that your employer has no right to access, judge or discipline you based on your social media activities. It’s happening. And I suspect it’s only the beginning.

And I agree with Drew, and with the employers, and I kind of like this new development. I think it’s about authenticity. And transparency. And it’s not a bad thing. The world might need it.

I get privacy. I was a teenager in the 1960s, so of course I understand why we want protection from surveillance and rights to privacy. We grew up fearing the 1984 Big Brother nightmare. I don’t want the government or an employer listening into my conversations, putting me on hidden video, or even knowing what library books I read. That’s all the quintessential none of their business.

But privacy has absolutely nothing to do with publishing. It makes me angry. It reminds me of people complaining about caller ID on my phone — you’re intruding into my world when you call me, so don’t block your number. If you do, I won’t answer. What’s next, blocking the peephole in the hotel door because it violates the privacy of the person outside knocking?

We — we users, email addicts, Twitter lovers, website browsers, et al. — should have figured this out 10 or 15 years ago when we got immersed in email. Email was the ground breaker. It feels private, but isn’t. You think your email is private? Somebody minding your mail server can read it. And courts can demand it as evidence.

My favorite answer to this question is authenticity. Authenticity is being the same person most of the time, not different people in different contexts. For example, in his intriguing Me 2.0 book, Generation Y personal branding expert Dan Schawbel recommends using the same picture and same bio for every place you present yourself in the Twitter-Facebook-LinkedIn world.

I love the John Cleese character Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers. There’s great comedy as Basil tries to keep track of which lies he’s told to which characters. Isn’t that the direct opposite of authenticity? And is that who you want to be?

Samuel Johnson who once said we are all just acting out our favorite character in fiction. I like that idea. I think I see it in action a lot. And to follow it along into this new context, perhaps it’s like suggesting that you should choose which character that is, and stick with that one.

Or, to make it really simple, be yourself.  One person, the same person, everywhere. Novel idea.