Footballers and Twitter have been making the headlines of late. But what about those anonymous folk who pose as players? Comedians? Subversives? Prats? Welcome to IBWM, Chris Carra.
I'm not an expert on mental heath, but I know there must be some underlying condition when one person pretends to be another. For example, if I was to don a dress and a blonde wig and took to the streets trying to convince people that I was Catherine Jenkins, I'd surely be spending a couple of weeks at the local psychiatric hospital. However, if I was to set up a social networking page under Catherine Jenkins' name, I'd only have to convince a small number of people I was the buxom shriller before everyone began believing me. But how does this scenario relate to football?
Many people are on Twitter these days. In fact, I'd go as far as saying many, many people are on Twitter. Some of these people are regular, everyday people. Some, though, are celebrities and, where I am concentrating my anger and attention today, footballers. As many football fanatics who use Twitter will know, professional footballers frequent the social networking site; be it Ferdinand, Donovan or Savage, giving fans the ability to glimpse into their favourite players life. Did Babel have bacon for breakfast? What does Cristiano Ronaldo's cat look like? A trip to Twitter will reveal all!
It's also a fantastic means to actually interact with the player, maybe sharing a small joke or a bit of praise and, despite the player only capable of a one word “thanks”, when these fans get a response it will make their week. It would be very hard to socialise with a footballer without the means of social networking. Becoming a sports journalist is one way, or stalking them another. Or becoming a referee...
So, to clarify, communicating via Twitter keeps the supporter happy because they get to see what their heroes are up to when not being paid millions to knock a ball about and the footballer happy because they have a barrage of praise, support and (I can only assume) women at the hit of the refresh button. Everybody is happy. Everybody wins.
So who, then, would benefit when a fake account is set up?
Wayne Rooney and David Beckham have fallen victim to fake accounts, but they are sometimes too easy to spot (the use of correct grammar on Rooney's was a give-away). However, if you move down the ranks you'll find players like Luke Moore (Swansea) and Lee Trundle (Neath) have had fake accounts set up and these are harder to detect. What do these fakers get out of their deception?
Well they get followers, obviously, which must be a great feeling, but they then clearly need to do something with those followers? It's not like a journalist who can promote an article or blog, or a company who are promoting their newest product line, or just to chat with other like-minded tweeters. He (or she) who is parading as the bogus footballer has to create tweets that mimic those of a professional. “I had a great training session today”... No you didn't! What you mean is you had a great day sat at your laptop, drooling at the prospect of people believing you are Andy Carroll.
Maybe the appeal is the praise they receive. “Great game today, and a good goal”, “Well played, glad you joined the team”, “hope you make the starting eleven on Saturday”... all phrases you'd probably love to hear if you were a professional footballer. But, once again, YOU ARE NOT! I can't see why getting praise for something you haven't done is in anyway enjoyable. You're in a pub, you're mate buys everyone a round but you carry the beers back to the table, everyone thanks you... do you accept this praise? Of course not (okay, maybe on the odd occasion).
It could be a way of slandering footballers you hate? Convince enough people you are the real Ryan Giggs and eventually, when you have them by the balls, you can start casually dropping in tweets like “bored with United, should have joined City years ago” or “I feel bad about the hit-and-run earlier, but I was drunk so it doesn't count.” Again though, people would wise up to this, so the best way of faking it is by keeping tweets simple and non-offensive.
The reason these bad eggs create these accounts could be a mix of all these ideas, though more than likely it is the thrill of knowing they've tricked genuine supporters. If you have read this post and are on the verge of setting up an Eboue Twitter account or a Balotelli Facebook page, think about what you are doing: coaxing real fans into believing they have had a 140-character interaction with their heroes isn't funny, it's pathetic.
Right, where's my wig...?
To read more from Chris, visit his Swansea City blog, Forza Swansea. You can also follow him on Twitter @ForzaSwansea.