There are two theories that I’d like to propose. The first is that there are fewer people than you imagine who are commenting on any social media and that there are fewer still who are truly passionate about anything anyone writes. And the second is that of those folks who are commenting there is an even smaller number of nearly religious zealots who are ruining the Arsenal for the rest of us.
For the first, I noticed that on this site I get about 3,500 hits a day. On my twitter account I have a similar number of followers: 3,537. Given all of those people you would think that any time I said something funny or interesting it would elicit thousands, or at least hundreds, of responses. But that is never the case. At most I get maybe a hundred responses. And, this is important, the majority of those responses come from a very small handful of people. And among those people, an even smaller number follow everything I write religiously. This phenomenon cuts across all the media I publish on.
For those few of you who follow everything I write, I think of you like really good friends, almost like best friends. Even my ex-girlfriend didn’t read everything I wrote, in fact she never read anything I wrote on any football sites and while we are still friends on Facebook she never reads anything I write there either. It is a huge ego boost if just one person follows everything I write so to have several dozen people comment like they did the other day always makes me feel special.
The chart above describes this phenomenon as a square root function. That chart is not generated by actual data, but is rather just a hypothesis. I started with a pure square root and posted it on Twitter. Response was pretty good because when you get down to the third and fourth data point in a f(x) = SQRT (x) function, the number is really small. For me, across all my social media accounts that fourth data point would be a number like 3 for a pure square root function.
That number seemed too small. I’ve met more than three people who read my blog every day so I know that can’t be true. So I played around with the numbers and landed on f(x) = 5*SQRT (x) which seems just about right. If I posted every day on here, Arseblog News, and on Twitter, I would generate an audience of something like 12,000 hits. That fourth data point winnows that number down to 54. Which, in my experience, seems about right.
54 people follow me religiously. Let’s start a cult!
That idea of gathering my 54 into my arms and forging off in our own direction actually brings me to my second theory and honestly it’s not really my theory at all but stems from multiple sources on human interaction. Basically, it’s the theory of “the other.”
The easiest example is that I write a football blog about the Arsenal. In my daily writings we (the Arsenal fans) write about stuff that others do (the non-Arsenal fans) that tick us off, make us laugh, etc. But the important point is that they (the others) don’t belong in our group. In fact, when a Spurs supporter comes on this site and starts saying stuff we disagree with inevitably someone will tell them to “fuck off to a Spurs blog.” Because they don’t belong in our self defined group.
One of the dangers of this self defined grouping and subsequent self-policing is a theory called “incestuous amplification.” What happens is that in small groups the stuff they talk about becomes dogmatic and in fact starts to become part of their personality — a way that they define themselves as separate from “the others.” If you insulate yourself in a small group and refuse to listen to outside information, your reality changes.
I’ve been accused of this insularity here on this blog and I take measures to make sure that is not the case. Yes, I have banned people but not because I disagree with their opinion: you have to be a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a spammer, or a troll to get banned. For example, I didn’t ban any of the folks who disagreed with me on whether the Adebayor chants were racist until they started hurling invectives. If you call me a “liberal Yank cunt” well, you’re just not welcome here anymore.
It’s a power that I wield very carefully for the exact reason that I don’t want us to become too insular.
In the past, I don’t remember too much factionalism among Arsenal supporters. We all supported the Arsenal and while there may have been some disagreement, we all defined ourselves as “Gooners” and everyone else as “the others.” But what’s happened lately among us Gooners is that sides are being chosen and incestuous amplification happening within factions of Arsenal supporters.
For example, I read an article this morning suggesting that Denilson could return to Arsenal because according to some sources he’s worn out his welcome in Brazil. I can already hear the war machines turning. There are people who will say “support any Arsenal player no matter what!” and there are people who will say “fuck Denilson no matter what!” and they will go to whatever dark corner of the internet that supports that view and begin to build their dogma. Then, a select few, priests if you will, will be sent out to spread the gospel.
Denilson, the footballing crab, is back! He’s all that is wrong with Arsene Wenger over the last six years. Failed youth policy, pampered stars, overpaid, lazy, not giving 100%, doesn’t care about defense!
OH YEAH??? Well, I supported Arsenal when we were utter shit and had players like Lefty McOnefoot* who scored 18 own goals in a season. True Arsenal supporters will back every player who wears the red and white!
But go back to my first theory. This is a very, very small number of people we are talking about. If you say that there are 2,000,000 Arsenal supporters in the world and you apply my formula, there are just 420 people in the whole world who will be making comments like the ones I’ve imagined above.
The reason you think there are more can be explained with one of my maxims: you can spot the asshole in any group of people because he/she is always the loudest. Those 420 are the people who take content from other sites and post a huge screed against Arsene Wenger in the comments. They are the ones who call each other “cunts” in an argument. They threaten people with violence. They make racist and sexist comments and call it “banta.”
It’s just a theory, but wouldn’t it be nice if we all just ignored the 420? If we just had fun supporting the Arsenal? Which, doesn’t mean you can’t be critical. Just don’t be a member of the 420.
Now, if you don’t mind I have to get back to editing the Catechism of 7amkickoff.
* I feel terrible for Lefty McOnefoot. He had such a promising career until he had a foot cut off in that horrible meat packing incident. He never could kick the same with his wooden leg.