If I unfollowed you, it’s because you tweeted about the World Cup

June 26, 2014

WC Tweet

At the rate I’m going, the number of people I follow on Twitter will have dropped from 640 to zero on July 13, after the last World Cup match concludes.

I’ve never been sentimental about Twitter, randomly unfollowing gassy and predictable feeds when flooded by their abundant and stupefying tweets, or pruning my list to make room for new voices. I can only assume that other Twitter devotees similarly budget their accounts, otherwise how could one keep up with the traffic?

Last month, soccer enthusiasts simplified the editing of my follow list by tweeting expansively about the World Cup. They published pre-game tweets. They live-tweeted matches. They offered post-game tweets. They tweeted about soccer fashion, about the officials’ bad calls, about the stadiums, other fans, the weather, other tweets, and more. If you’re a heavy Twitter user, you know what I’m talking about.

As a soccer agnostic, with no hatred for or interest in the game, these many tweets hold a negative value for me. So, on June 12, when Brazil took on Croatia in the first match, and fans filled Twitter with the written equivalent of a vuvuzela orchestra, I tweeted my minor rebellion: “If I unfollowed you, it’s because you tweeted about the World Cup. Nothing personal.”

U.S. soccer fans react after a missed goal opportunity during the 2014 World Cup match between Germany and the U.S. in New YorkSince that tweet, I’ve thinned my follow list by 140 accounts, down to 500. I’ve even unfollowed Twitter buddies for the misdemeanor of retweeting a benign World Cup tweet. As I write this during the United States vs. Germany match, I’m still unfollowing — so long, Carl Bialik, so long, Lizzie O’Leary, so long Tim Carney, so long, Damon Darlin, so long, Clara Jeffery, so long, Hilary Sargent, and so long, Dave Weigel!

I’ve unfollowed most every Brit I know, including my Guardian pals Janine Gibson and Stuart Millar, for their World Cup tweets. After I Twitter-ditched my good friend Bill Gifford, he used Twitter to call for vigilante action against me, urging the soccer faithful to “cc #hater @jackshafer on your #WorldCup” tweets. (I took a contract out on his life. You always wanted to die in some hot car-on-bicycle action, didn’t you, Bill?)

I’ve unfollowed other close friends, valued colleagues, academics, fellow Reuters employees, Twitter-wit NYTFridge, and others whose feeds amused or enlightened me until their World Cup pronouncements interceded.

But don’t blame me for over-reacting, blame them for over-sharing.

I, too, am a sports fan, so I understand the intensity of the soccer mob. Yet my sports devotions have never induced me into tweeting about games or matches. My opposition to sporting tweets, while deep, is not absolute. You’ve got to expect a Twitter din during college football bowl season, the World Series, Wimbledon, the Masters, the Triple Crown, the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl, and other events. But none of these spectacles run on for a month like the World Cup.

To put my complaint in perspective, suppose the frat boys in the apartment below yours threw a noisy, one-night kegger. You could probably endure it without calling the police. But what if they held a kegger every afternoon and every evening for a month, and even when they weren’t drinking and screaming, they were singing songs about drinking? Even if you liked beer and were invited to their parties, you would not last long before calling 911.

Social media encourages writers toward conciseness and cleverness, the better to attract a larger audience. But these rules have dissolved during the World Cup interregnum. Ordinarily smart people are typing “Goooooaaaaall!!!!!” into Twitter as if other soccer fans are blind to what they just saw on TV. In an earlier era, sports fans limited their victory dancing to their own living rooms or, if exuberance swayed them, went into the streets to tip cars over and set them on fire. How I miss those good times.

The secret of Twitter’s appeal, like the appeal of other communications technologies — Facebook, text, email, the phone, the telegraph, the postal letter — is that it gives everyman the opportunity to fill the human need to say, “I am here.” Ever since the first cave-painter pressed his hand in paint and palmed his print on the rock, we’ve been finding new ways to say “I am here.” For that reason, I should probably be a little less critical of the average soccer fan’s desire to connect and commune with their comrades via Twitter. I should put my head down until mid-July, and stop my complaining.

But uh-uh. You’re free to tweet what you want to tweet, and I’m free to unfollow whom I want to unfollow. Consider this column my can of black spray-paint, aerosoling your soccer tweets into oblivion. For the time being, you’re not here.


Several Twitter-users suggested that I use the mute function to silence World Cup offenders or to block them. That would be too tactful. To quote the Ramones, I don’t wanna walk around with you, so why do you wanna walk around with me? After mid-July, I hope to refollow many of those I unfollowed, but I won’t take it personally if they don’t reciprocate. It’s their accounts, not mine. Send the latest soccer scores to Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com and unfollow my Twitter feed. Sign up for email notifications of new Shafer columns (and other occasional announcements). Subscribe to this RSS feed for new Shafer columns.

PHOTO: U.S. soccer fans react after a missed goal opportunity during the 2014 World Cup Group G soccer match between Germany and the U.S. at a viewing party under the Manhattan Bridge in New York June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson


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Regular people don’t read tweets. It’s boring and it’s impractical. Twitter is for the sender, not the reader. It is masturbation.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Jack, this is choice reading. Picture this: I just flattened a soccer ball. Unfortunately, there are more where that one came from. Keep unfollowing until a more challenging subject comes up and soccer is not one of them! (And for God’s sake–protect your shoulders–there are soccer sharks out there. Ha, ha.

Posted by MonitorLizard | Report as abusive

The whole purpose is that people tweet what is happening in their life, and/or what interests them. Obviously that interests them. Unless you only receive tweets from your clone, you undoubtedly are going to get stuff that doesn’t interest you.

Personally, I think the whole ‘social media’ thing, has been a giant step backwards. People I’ve talked to for years, now refuse to even answer emails… It’s like everyone has become this internet prima-donna… ‘Sorry, I don’t actually *talk* to people… Feel free to ‘follow’ me though’.

Yeah, sorry… but I don’t “follow” people. Especially when it’s just some everyday guy. The system is setup for celebrities… people who THINK they’re celebrities… and good looking girls, desperate for attention… who get scores of pathetic men kissing their butt, every time they post two words.

So yeah, if you expect more than that, you’ll probably be disappointed.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

Silly Wabbit … Tweets are for Twits.

Posted by BobWhite2000 | Report as abusive

Twitter restricts one to 140 characters or less. You just wrote an 889-word article of banality…which you concluded with instructions to to e-mail you the latest soccer scores and a plea to follow your articles.
Good work if you can get it, eh?

Posted by Rantzid | Report as abusive

Yet another Jack Shafer article talking about his dog… or something like that. Come on Reuters, get some opinion writers with something meaningful to say.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

“I can understand why someone with no interest in soccer would be bored by the World Cup. But there’s a peculiar defensiveness to Shafer’s public posturing, to his need to explain why the rest of the world’s delight holds a “negative value” for him. He’ll accept sporting tweets for the World Series and the Triple Crown, but not for a phenomenon that, frankly, makes the World Series look like a Little League competition in Poughkeepsie. Sorry, Jack, but I think you’ve got to expect that the biggest sporting event in the world is going to dominate the conversation every four years. Publicly trumpeting how you are cutting yourself off from this dialogue is an unworthy form of American isolationism.”

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/29/the_righ ts_absurd_world_cup_paranoia_explained/? utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflo w

Posted by ErikDaRed | Report as abusive

Come on Jack. The Stanley Cup lasts two months and involves 16 cities. The NFL playoffs plague us every year, have a dozen cities, last forever and we have to put up with two weeks of hysteria when nothing happens waiting for the Super Bowl game to be played. The World Cup is played once every four years and 32 different countries are represented.

Posted by OutintheCold | Report as abusive

Couldn’t you just pres your hands to your ears and go “Nyaaa Nyaa Nyaa I can’t hear you” ? That would be an equally sensible and mature response.

Posted by AlanSF | Report as abusive

I will remember this when you and every other reported I follow tweets the lunch order at the respective diners visited by each presidential primary candidate in Iowa for a whole month.

Posted by JJTrainor | Report as abusive

You actually follow people on Twitter? What a twit.

Posted by UKantHndleTruth | Report as abusive

The World Cup is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people, myself included, think it is vulgar.

Posted by Cleveland2012 | Report as abusive

I know, right?! A sport where play-acting (“oh, I’m hurt!” as he rolls around) plays a critical part in the posession and scoring. What a joke “futbol” is.

Posted by UKantHndleTruth | Report as abusive