Hashtags, Keiren Westwood and a drink in your local bar: Alex Miller's Sheffield Wednesday column

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When a football team is winning, Twitter is like happy hour at your local bar.

Skipping through the door, you settle in for the evening, chew the fat on a few of your favourite hashtags, sample a refreshing meme or two and share a few laughs. Everyone is smiling, strangers are hugging and every now and then someone buys you a virtual pint.

A difference in opinion? We’re all friends here, chum. I’ll have another.

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But when a football team is losing, well, it’s a very different place altogether. It’s drunk at 4am in the back of a meat wagon. And people are angry.

Faces are bloodied and tempers flared. The hatred in the air is outstripped only by the smell of something nasty and everybody is screaming at one another.

Right now, after a run of one win in 10 games, Sheffield Wednesday Twitter is slumped in the back of that stinking meat wagon.

This comes, of course, in a week of self-reflection on social media after the tragic and preventable death of TV presenter Caroline Flack on Saturday.

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The harrowing circumstances surrounding her suicide are better documented elsewhere, but the tragedy jumped into the consciousness of the Wednesday family on Monday when taking to Twitter, Keiren Westwood referenced her death and centred on the affects of social media nastiness in his clarification of his current position at the club.

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has discussed the use of social media this week.Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has discussed the use of social media this week.
Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has discussed the use of social media this week.

The hashtag #BeKind – pushed out later that evening by Flack’s former TV show and somewhat classlessly ‘sponsored’ by a food delivery service – was circulated for several days while the nation took a deep breath and thought about its use of social media. Online abuse, it was unanimously agreed, is not on.

Just a day later another Sheffield Wednesday player volunteered his time to take part in a ‘mock press conference’ with journalism students from a local university.

The same player did it last year, he had no contractual obligation to do so and – at a time where few players have dared to put their head above the parapet – spoke passionately about his love for the club and his determination to help however he can in turning around its fortunes.

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The Star were invited and have run a number of stories on what he told those present. And alongside a sprinkling of honest debate about the content of the articles, in rolled that meat wagon, the spirit of #BeKind suspended.

Messages of abuse were tweeted in response to every story posted with this player at the centre. Most messages are not suitable for publication – many replies included language so aggressive it was automatically screened by Twitter algorithms.

Football without passion is nothing. Wednesday fans pay their hard-earned cash to support their team and have every right to be angry at how things are going.

Snowflake? Perhaps. But in the tortured words of Caroline Flack’s friend Kevin Adams: “You don’t need to be kind. If you see someone you don’t like, you don’t need to tell them. Just leave them alone.”