January is a difficult time for a footy fan to be on Twitter.
With the transfer window open, hundreds of accounts rack up their followers alleging to know of an impending transfer.
Some are legitimate; most are not.
What, without question, cannot be questioned, however, is the insatiable appetite that Twitterites have for information. Any kind of information. Fact or fiction, in 140 characters or less, please and thank-you. Now.
This week we heard the story of 17-year-old English schoolboy Samuel Rhodes who pretended to be a football journalist, guessed correctly on a few scoops, and managed to get to over 20,000 followers.
He is not the first to do this and won't be the last.
The 'outing' of Rhodes came in the same week that former Premier League star Stan Collymore took a brave stance to demand more from Twitter to stop the disgusting levels of abuse he receives, many of which simply comes down to the colour of his skin.
Twitter, like the world, can be a dark and depressing place, where it is easy to lose faith in humanity.
Yet, it can also be magnificent. For me, it has shown me things on this gorgeous planet of ours I would've never have seen, it has introduced me to some brilliant writers, whose work I would never have found, and given me a regular education on things that interest me, helping me become more knowledgeable about subjects I am passionate about.
It is up to me to ensure, from Twitter, I get much more of the latter than the former, but it is getting harder and harder to find the gems amongst the rubbish.
For that reason, this week I learned about the examples of Rhodes and Collymore indirectly through Twitter. I do not follow either. This is my personal choice.
Rhodes, whose account has since been suspended, succeeded not necessarily because he was right more than he was wrong but because he was able, in 140 characters or less, to write what people would be interested in.
He quite often didn't write the truth, yet people were interested in what he had to say, so he became popular.
This month I have experimented in following Twitter accounts who told me they had inside track on transfers. The moment they started retweeting articles from the UK press telling me Juventus were selling Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio to Manchester United tomorrow, for example, they quickly became unfollowed.
I am aware that I am not their target audience. I care very little for transfer gossip. I actually blame the brilliant magazine 'Match', bought by almost every teenage English boy in the '80s and '90s, for this when they once ran on their front page a picture of my favourite player, David Platt, claiming they had an exclusive that he was returning to Aston Villa. Once I opened the magazine, I found it was an April Fools' Joke and my college mates laughed harder than they did at Alan Partridge.
Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, no chance, I am waiting for the player to be introduced at the press conference.
That is just me, however. Football fans are obsessed to read their clubs being linked with players and, incredibly, most of them either do not care or do not know that most successful transfers come out-of-the-blue and the long, drawn out ones done in the media are often the ones that do not get completed.
In a week of tweets around Rhodes and Collymore, thousands more rained down on timelines last Thursday when a supposed new way of ensuring a transfer was secured came to light.
Notice the double S? #smalldetails
Now, it is very unlikely that Ed Woodward and his staff at Manchester United sent out an in-house memo to their players saying please follow our latest recruit. So, it is safe to assume that good ol 'Wazza' followed his new mate to get to know him a bit more and allow him, once his new mate decides to follow back (note - Mata has been slightly more cautious who he follows in light of this news and continues to read tweets from Spanish & Chelsea teammates as well as others from Coldplay, The Beatles and Rafael Nadal) to then send direct messages even though he will soon have his mobile phone number.
If you were a football fan on Twitter last Thursday for a couple of hours between 1pm and 3pm Eastern time it would have been nearly impossible to escape the "news" of Rooney's latest follow.
Retweet after retweet after retweet. Done in less than a second with little to no thought. Yet, what is it all for? Sure, you can learn something about who people follow, I will give you that, but this? Told to us all that many times? Who really needs it?
My mind went back to a more innocent time when the same thirst for information existed but wasn't available to people.
RT @YorkshirePost: @BrianSpecialOneClough now follows @LeedsUnited. Deal must be done. Follow @YorkshirePost to find out when players start following @BrianSpecialOneClough.
Football fans of those times certainly weren't as uneducated about the game just because they weren't able to get access to information quicker. They read the brilliant amount of literature made available to them by outstanding journalists whose reputations were based on their copy, not the amount of followers they had.
So what are football fans learning from Twitter in 2014?
It is believed that there are now over a billion twitter accounts that have been started since it was launched in March 2006. The same statistics reveal that over 100 million are active daily tweeters and, on average, over 500 million tweets per day are sent out.
In an era where it is getting harder and harder to get people to read, people are tweeting more than ever. Once seen as a platform to make sure consumers can read what interests them, it has now provided those followers with a reason, almost instantly, not to bother opening it as their eyes are immediately guided elsewhere.
When I tweeted about this article I am fully aware that some people didn't even have the attention span to read the entire tweet. Others, read the tweet and didn't click the link, some clicked the link and jumped ship on the article earlier on, some are still with me but have skimmed this sentence because too many people do not read properly anymore, leaving the rest of you still sticking with this. For now. Thank-You.
This week I had a discussion with a young man in this industry who wanted to know more about what he should do. For some reason he wanted to talk to me yet, despite that decision, he is a smart guy with a good sports brain. He wondered if he should tweet more when he is watching sports; I told him to tweet less.
During a match, Twitter opens up a door on a gigantic theatre and allows you to come in with your mates to discuss what is going on as the game plays out in front of you all. During the discussion you will often meet new friends and quite often this can be great fun but the next time someone calls you out for your opinion on a team or a player I suggest, if you care, to check how often he tweets during a match. If he tweets often it will be difficult to watch the game close enough to form strong, informed opinions.
With live games around the world giving football fans more access than ever, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter as people cannot wait to jump on their mobile device to give their take on something. When a television replay is being given to the audience, to show a great example of what just happened, millions around the world are missing it because they have their head into their mobile device tweeting to their followers what they just saw.
Some people love this and everyone is entitled to their own cup of tea but if you are buying a ticket to that kind of party you should know what you are signing up for. Hashtags and retweets open up your very own, personal Twitter Universe and, as the stories around Rhodes and Collymore have proven, can pull you, even amidst the tranquility of a Sunday morning, to a land of vile insults where absolute lies are talked about as facts.
It is a dangerous world that continues to get your attention, very often over the people sitting in the exact same room as you. (You know you have done it; truly well done if you haven't).
For a fan, Twitter can give you a lot of good things but if you must ignore the game, or person you are sat with, to dive head first into Twitter, be careful what you are choosing to read and write.
You owe that much to your brain and the one thing that is getting more and more precious to all of us - your time. #thanksforstickingwithme