In these days of social media, a thought can be transmitted across the world within seconds of it appearing in your head, so why not talk to us? Our new owner has certainly changed all that, with regular personal messages and responses to online comments that have been so swift as to catch out the OP (that’s Original Poster, to explain the media-speak) and have several backtracking when they realised that Stew actually reads Facebook and Twitter. We’re getting information from the horse’s mouth on transfers and the financial situation rather than speculation and there’s nowhere like social media for a rumour to become a FACT (compulsory use of Upper Case) without any evidence to back it up. It’s a big, big change for Sunderland fans to get used to.
And therein lies the potential problem. Many people simply aren’t used to social media being factually true, we’ve become so used to threads being based on nothing more than supposition, or the appearance of someone who looks a bit like a footballer at Seaham Hall, that when presented with real facts we’re not sure what to do. The default response to anything on Facebook or Twitter is to pick a side (true or untrue, right or wrong) and join in the inevitable debate and publish. Or argument, as it’s so easy to respond. We’ve all got mates (usually called Dave) whose brain and mouth remain steadfastly unconnected, meaning that as soon as a thought germinates, it comes flying out of their mouths (or into their keyboard) without the benefit of a filter or consideration of any offence/misinformation/misunderstanding that may occur. Perhaps Mr Zuckerberg could add a five second “are you sure you want to say that?” delay on any Facebook posts, or an app that detects alcohol on your breath and prevents anything being posted until you’ve sobered enough to care about what you put online.
My personal opinion is that I’d rather have too much factual information from the club and decide what I want to get upset about than have too little and have to revert to speculation. Other people might prefer to follow rumour and enjoy the discussions that ensue. There is, however, and argument that sometimes less is better, and it’s a very difficult line to draw between being open and honest, as our current regime promised to be and are proving to be, and not revealing every internal machination of the club. There are probably a few things in the public domain that didn’t really need to be there: nothing nasty, nothing illegal, nothing morally questionable, just maybe a bit too much detail sometimes. Perhaps.
Stew Donald is an ordinary football fan, like the rest of us, who has been extraordinarily successful in business to the extent that he’s been able to do what he did at Eastleigh and do what he’s doing at Sunderland. He’s a passionate and enthusiastic lad who responds quickly to situations (one of the reasons he’s been so successful in business) and social media gives him a great platform to explain things quickly, but social media is populated by people, some of whom are nothing like their real selves, who also respond quickly (see comments about brain and mouth above) and potentially stir up discontent. He has responded to claims that our bids for Wigan’s Will Grigg were “insulting”, saying that nobody outside the clubs/agents knows that the bids have been, and that the club’s decisions will be explained once the transfer window closes.
Personally, I “do” Facebook but not Twitter because I’d rather be sent birthday greetings by someone who doesn’t mean it than be sent a death threat by someone who does. Words have to be very carefully chosen in order to get the message across without giving folks any ammunition to fire back, and to ensure that everyone gets the same message from a message, see Donald Trump for a prime example of how not to use social media. When you’ve got one of the world’s most powerful people tweeting childish insults at the same time as threatening to kill thousands of people halfway across the world, Stewart revealing the workings of a football club pales into insignificance. If Trump has a PR person or team, I’d suggest they’re pretty rubbish at their job, as their client looks like an idiot, or very good, as he’s still in office. We, on the other hand, have a top-notch PR man looking after our club, which is probably why we’ve yet to publish anything that couldn’t be explained away. I’m not for a moment suggesting that Stewart should send everything to Charlie Methven for pre-posting approval, as that would remove a lot of the energy from what he gives us, but perhaps take a breath before pressing “send.” It sometimes isn’t so much what you say as the way that you say it. On the other hand, at least we know there’s someone there in case things ever threaten to get out of hand.
Compared to what we had before, and to the bland, meaningless offerings from other clubs, our output of information is a refreshing change, but that’s just my opinion. As is that we should tread with caution as things progress, but not too much, as I’m enjoying most of what I see.