A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Those were the words of Abraham Lincoln in a speech he gave on June 16, 1858 at the Republican Convention in Springfield, IL when he announced his intention to run for the US Senate. However, politics is not the purpose of this little ditty, but the words capture the spirit and intent of this drivel better than anything else.
Throughout my travels as a Bills fan in cyberspace I’ve been blessed to encounter some of the most incredible people along the way. Some of you may remember my posts from a former life as a moderator for the Buffalo Bills message board.
My journey started around 2002 when message boards and chat rooms were still in their infancy. Like many transplanted Western New Yorkers, I thought I died and went to heaven being able to communicate with other Bills and Sabres fans from my home in Wyoming.
As years passed, the blessing that is cyberspace revealed its flip side and gave rise to the ‘troll’, and the fight was on. Having had to decipher human behavior for a living, I found the relationship people have to each other in cyberspace quite fascinating, and I still do.
So… for going on two decades, we’ve been able to watch our beloved sports teams and share our ephemeral joy and seemingly perpetual sorrow. Software now allows us to interact directly with professional players, journalists from print and digital media, even with the front office of sports teams.
There’s sports radio where we can call and have our opinions streamed all over the world to be heard by voices in places you’ve probably never heard of. People of a certain age (like myself) marvel at how far we’ve come since the AM transistor radios tuned into “WKBW 1520 on your dial”.
The “alternative reality” of the internet, and social media in particular have unleashed one of the most powerful weapons of our time. We now live in a world where we consume news from a myriad of sources, some good… some not so good.
One of the unfortunate consequences of the digital age is that we can also find ourselves being attacked for seemingly little reason. The dangers of 140 characters is that context is lost and the most rudimentary parts of our brain tend to take over. The result is sometimes not very pretty.
OK… I know… get to the point.
Recently I’ve noticed the tone and tenor of my Twitter timeline has devolved into hunting expeditions where angry people lash out at each other in response to seemingly innocuous statements. I get that these are trying times, people are tense and the world seems a little less compassionate.
Whatever walk of life, we all bring our baggage with us wherever we go, even on the internet. So when someone starts lashing out at another person on social media for whatever reason, some of us react poorly because the medium does not allow for proper context to be laid out.
Like many, I learned (sometimes the hard way) over years of moderating insane posts on the Bills message board that there’s little to be gained from inciting a war on social media. Twitter’s 140 character limit exponentially made the problem worse and my timeline certainly reflects a lot of fan-to-fan, fan-to-media, media-to-fan and media-to-media hostility.
Case in point:
Tyrod Taylor ignited a fecal storm last week when he essentially called out the media in Buffalo for being too negative. Naturally this ignited passionate responses from various people. Cue in the all-too-predictable blame and shame game, and you end up walking away wondering why you just wasted time getting upset with someone you don’t even know.
The salient question I have to ask in all of this goes back to Abraham Lincoln’s comment. Don’t we all want the same thing? I mean… I get that professional journalists in Western New York aren’t necessarily Bills fans, nor should they be.
In fact, one thing I find quite disturbing is the general lack of respect and understanding about the role and function of professional journalists in ‘civilized’ society. My timeline becomes a free-for-all anytime Jerry Sullivan posts something negative about the Bills and/or Sabres.
I get why it’s upsetting for some folks, but try to at least understand the bigger picture. If we didn’t have professional journalists dogging the Bills and Sabres constantly (or any journalist on any topic), fans would have no way to know what’s really going on beyond what fans are allowed to see as directed by the organization. Professional journalists are our eyes, ears, and voice on the inside.
If you have any interest in this topic about community and media relations, particularly in Western New York, please take the time and listen to an enlightening discussion by members of the professional media on yesterday’s edition of the Tim Graham Show on 1270 Sports Radio The Fan.
As a fan, blogger, and lover of all things Buffalo, I found this show to be particularly revealing about the ongoing challenges facing the professional media covering the Bills and Sabres, as well as teams in other cities. It’s worth your time to check it out if you really want to know how they do their jobs.
However, the show also illustrated the ongoing struggle between fans, bloggers, professional journalists, and both Bills and Sabres organizations. I swear we are the ‘anti-Boston’… trying to grapple with decades of failure to win a single championship.
And… from my point of view we are all failing each other with respect to keeping the house from becoming divided. The result is what we see on our timelines every day, and it doesn’t look pretty. There are so many tweets complaining about the tone and tenor of our timelines, but little effort being made toward being a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Well, consider this my first (and likely not last) attempt to put the focus back where it belongs… on the subject of how our beloved teams can finally get out of the basement. Can we become something our community can be proud of as winners instead of whining at each other and acting like fools?
Instead of blaming and shaming, how about showing each other more respect on social media as a start? Isn’t life hard enough without piling on each other about things that in the ultimate scheme of things are superfluous?
Thanks for reading my babble.