Here’s the problem with Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100, a list of sports personalities whose Twitter feeds are “considered essential to their (SI staff) daily routine for finding news, information and entertainment from the sports world”:
SI has no authority to create such a list, or to even attempt to tell us what we should think or follow.
SI might be able to brush this off as merely its opinion, but the thing is, SI is the authority within sports media (sorry, ESPN). By definition, what SI writes is taken more legitimately than what I write, or for that matter Fox Sports or Sportsline or ESPN or Deadspin or Awful Announcing. When SI puts out its top 100 sports Twitter users, it doesn’t come across as whimsical, it comes across as an attempt to define public opinion.
SI assumes it’s the boss, that its influence in social media is as significant as it has been for decades through its reporting. SI, however, cannot control social media. It can use social media, but it can’t control it. It’s out of SI’s hands. It — meaning control — belongs to no one when it comes to social media. It belongs to everyone, collectively, whether through something privately owned like Twitter or something as broad and widespread as comment boards and product user ratings.
Twitter, although public for most to see, is driven by private choices. It’s why I, a St. Louis Cardinals fan, follow only two Cards-related Twitter posters: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and MLBTR’s Cards updates. They give me everything I want and need. For MLB news, I follow only Jon Heyman. For NFL news, I follow only Adam Schefter. Somebody else might follow Buster Olney and Chris Mortensen.
It’s personal preference. I don’t bother with Olney because he links to stories behind ESPN’s Insider pay wall. I follow Heyman because he’s thorough and, more personally, I like that he always gives credit to other news outlets when he uses their information.
SI’s list of essential tweeters includes Jose Canseco, a man whose feed gives followers a front-row seat to an ongoing emotional implosion. It’s very, very sad. I used to follow Canseco. Now I don’t because he clearly needs help and isn’t getting any. There’s nothing “essential” about Canseco’s Twitter feed, at least to me. His feed is a snuff film in slow motion. To someone else, it’s comic relief.
And that’s my point. SI calls Canseco’s public emotional breakdown “essential” and a “funhouse.” I call it pathetic. My neighbor might find it entertaining. My students might find it irrelevant.
Whatever your preference, it’s social media. It’s an individual choice based on usefulness, function and entertainment. SI ceases being SI when it enters the realm of social media; it’s just another potential product for social media users. It thinks it still has control over a steering wheel, and it might. But there’s no indication that steering wheel is attached to a car.
Find Dave Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.