A few days ago, our very own Josh Baumgard openly wondered if social media is changing–for the worse–the way we consume sports, and to a greater extent, life. Without expressly saying so, he hypothesized that by taking “selfies” at a Heat game, we’re somehow wasting precious moments and doing this whole life thing wrong.
Watching sports is supposed to be our release. It’s intended to distract, entertain, and bond. No longer is it distracting, because social media has become a distraction from our distraction. We’re bonding more with our iPhones than our friends and family.
He’s right about this: for a lot of people, sports serves as a distraction from life’s problems. But, why is it so wrong to distract myself from my distraction? And is it even considered a separate distraction if what it’s doing is enhancing the experience of my original distraction?
One of the greatest things about the invention of Twitter is that it’s allowed me the ability to enjoy a game with a number of people I otherwise never would have had the chance to meet. People who like the same things I like. People whose banter I’ll probably enjoy exponentially more than the ones at the ballpark. Does the guy sitting next to me at American Airlines Arena even know what a horsetronaut is? Would he be able to understand why that’s funny even if I sat there and explained it to him?
Maybe it seems like my phone is distracting me from the game, but what it’s actually doing is making the entire experience that much more enjoyable. My distraction is no longer limited to what’s happening on the field or on the court. I have options now. I can take pictures of players and Instagram selfies. I can tweet my thoughts about the game or Facebook chat my friends when there’s a lull in the action. I can tailor my distraction to my specific needs. I can make my distraction a super distraction.
The architechts behind Marlins Park understood this, which is why left field has a bar with loud music, a swimming pool, bikini-clad lifeguards and topless dancers. You came to the ballpark looking for a distraction? Consider yourself distracted.
My phone doesn’t always have to be a distraction, though. It can be my ticket to my 15-minutes of fame.
Say I’m at a Dolphins game and a fight breaks out three rows in front of me. Say I have my phone out and I’m recording the whole thing. Say I upload it to YouTube and Deadspin picks it up. That’s my video that set the internet ablaze and that’s much more exciting than a 3rd and 16 draw play.
(Ed. note: I don’t personally feel that way about internet fame, mind you, but I’m not about to begrudge someone who does.)
One thing Josh was dead-on about is that social media is dumbing down the sports conversation. My god, is it dumbing things down. There are more voices in the media now than ever and because there are so few smart people in the world (let alone sports), a disturbingly large portion of these voices spit lowest common denominator nonsense. But, that only contaminates the sports media gene pool if you let it. You have the choice to follow Skip Bayless and Chris Broussard, they don’t just come preloaded on your Twitter like Samsung bloatware. And maybe you follow them just so you don’t find yourself out of the loop (which I imagine is the case with lots of folks); that doesn’t mean you need to be outraged by the things they say. There’s always the option to just, you know, not care.
Which is kind of what this all comes down to. My selfies, my tweets, those pictures of my cheesecake–they fuel my narcissistic urges, sure, but that narcissism is part of my distraction and there’s really no reason for anyone else to care about how and why I go about achieving that distraction.
There’s also, of course, the less philisophical answer to why it’s perfectly okay for someone to be distracted from their distraction. Because some people horde DVDs and other people build model cars that will most likely collect dust on a shelf. And then there’s me Tweeting through the fifth inning while sitting three rows away from the action. And others taking blurry photos of tiny anthletes from the 300 level. Because as silly and pointless as it is, for that brief moment, it simply makes us happy.
Why do you hate happiness, Josh?
Previously: Social Media is Drowning Sports