According to what might loosely be described as 'research,' a scientist at Oxford University informed us this week that social networking phenomena such as Twitter and Facebook have created a generation of narcissistic wannabes.
Question of loyalty: Joey Barton has repaid his club by slagging them off
This report declared the internet has spawned self-obsessed individuals cursed with a desperate need for validation, an inability to make eye contact during conversation and I think it went on to say something about a short attention span, but I'd drifted off by then.
I was too busy reading Joey Barton's tweets. The Newcastle United player has been barking 'Here I am, over here!' into cyberspace for the past few days, stirring up a fuss by promising to make an important announcement about his future.
Instead, he posted what must rank as the most entertaining, pretentious and inadvertently amusing collection of tweets of the year. They certainly seemed a suitable case for academic study, possibly by a team of people in white coats.
It started with a familiar gripe. Barton moaned about the club's lack of transfer investment, pointing the finger squarely at Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and chairman Derek Llambias.
Loading tweets.When he was inevitably fined, sent totrain alone in punishment and eventually told he could go on a free transfer, Barton accused the club of 'kicking a man when he is down', not the wisest choice of phrase bearing in mind the nasty Liverpool street assault that landed him in jail.
But he then proceeded to reel off quotes from George Washington, GeorgeOrwell, Aristotle, Seneca, Nietzsche and Virgil (not the one from Thunderbirds, either) on topics as diverse as freedom, trust, truth and justice.
These were followed by comments about American foreign policy ('supporting fascist regimes') and his attempt to defy what he believed were stereotypical views about footballers.
This Algonquin Round Table level of debate was somewhat undermined when it was interspersed with 'banter' involving Robbie Savage that reset the bar of debate back to 'limbo low' (Example - 'U r a nugget').
But the essential message Barton wanted to broadcast was that he was more than a moaning footballer. He was actually a deep thinker and philosopher.
'Because you kick a ball makes u an idiot? Makes no sense. I agree some r but some also r not,' he said, which is of course true, if we ignore the textspeak.
I've often heard players claim they embrace Twitter because it helps fans know their 'real personality'. And this erudite collection of tweets did indeed provide an insight into Barton's private world.
It told us he knows how to use Google to find a quotations website and that he has too much time on his hands. That doesn't mean what he originally said wasn't justified. Newcastle's policy amounts to little more than muddling through and hoping somebody, somewhere comes in and buys the place for a decent price before the club plummets out of the Premier League again.
It also tells you everything you need to know about the unpopularity of Ashley that Barton can burnish his image by slating how the club operates from within.
But it does ask the question of whether he was the right man to say it. Barton has hardly been some long-suffering victim of injustice on Tyneside. Amazingly, there were people out there actually buying this 'working class hero' shtick.
Wrong Toon: Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has been undermined by Barton
One agent slimed in apologetic mitigation: 'So Joey has a little rant on Twitter now and again. If the club had been good to him then he wouldn't have anything to say.'
Itwas extraordinary nonsense, because the club has been very good to him.I don't recall Barton expressing unhappiness with Ashley when he continued to pay his ?60,000-a-week wages while he was locked up in Strangeways. In fact, Newcastle gave Barton his shot at redemption.
Hehas repaid his employers by slagging them off, undermining his manager Alan Pardew and generally posturing as some fans' champion.
Bartonis the thrush of Twitter; rash, irritating, yet easily dealt with. And however he dresses it up, with lines from Orwell like 'In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act', the bottom line is he was unprofessional.
Anyemployee trashing their boss in public would expect to receive a P45. Rather than look up authors and Roman philosophers online, Barton shouldhave read his Premier League contract, where clause 3.25 says:
More from Des Kelly. Des Kelly: Mancini ready to deliver. or die trying29/07/11 Des Kelly: Now the 2012 Olympic Games is faster, higher, stronger.FATTER! 22/07/11 Des Kelly: Just hurl these greedy stars through the transfer window15/07/11 Des Kelly: Wenger has to sell Arsenal's sulks and buy in bulk this summer08/07/11 Des Kelly: Ignorant, blinkered, foolish traitors.let these talented lads play for GB24/06/11 Des Kelly: We came, we saw, we conquered! Scaling Kilimanjaro with Chris Kamara and Brendan Rodgers17/06/11 Des Kelly: Terror on the track with prince of wheels - my mad day on a motorbike.10/06/11 Watch Des Kelly's white-knuckle ride at Silverstone with MotoGP star Cal Crutchlow09/06/11 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE 'Theplayer agrees that he shall not: knowingly or recklessly do, write or say anything or omit to do anything which is likely to bring the club orthe game into disrepute, cause the player or the club to be in breach of the Rules or cause damage to the club or its officers or employees orany match official.'
Newcastle have now sent out legal letters reminding the staff of this. Pardew even asked Sir Alex Ferguson for further advice on how to handle players' Twitter access.
That is like asking Kim Jong-il how he manages to keep North Korea's traffic problems to a minimum.
Ferguson tends to have very few problems with trivia such as Twitter because the players are terrified of defying the manager. At Newcastle, nobody seems too concerned about that - and they haven't for years - which has been part of the club's problem.
Having originally been told he could clear out on a free, everyone soon calmed down a bit. Barton's agent said it was a 'wee bit suicidal' for the club to shove him out on a free (10 per cent of nothing is nothing) and all parties made noises of reconciliation as they remembered there might be money to be had.
Barton even hinted at a bridge-building exercise, referring to the great engineer of Clifton Suspension Bridge on Twitter. 'Does anyone have Isambard Kingdom Brunel's number?' he asked. Probably not, since he died in 1859.
It is precisely because Twitter is for self-obsessed narcissists that it is an unavoidable magnet for preening footballers and sports folk, motley media types seeking wider validation (see @DesKellyDM for more details) and celebrities desperate to cling on to any audience they can find.
This is why managers and sporting officialdom generally hate it. Bosses find the online chatter at best exasperating and downright mutinous at worst.
Twitter knocks down barriers and circumvents PR departments.
Rarely a week goes by without a fuss being stirred up by a cluster of unfiltered words broadcast online, with all the associated fines, bans and complaints about breaches of confidentiality or plain good taste.
Thumbs up: But Barton claims to be surprised by the furore surrounding his comments
But the worst pose of all from Barton was to make such a song and dance about his grievances and then pretend he was astonished to be the centre of attention.
'Has sport in this country, stooped so low as to quote, my nonsensical social media ramblings. They will probably quote this s**t! How sad???'
It suggests it was all just an exercise in 'me-me-me' rather than some grand campaign on behalf of the good people of Newcastle.
But his pseudo-intellectual posing wasn't over. He added on Friday: 'Loving the fact my NPR t-shirt is on the back of most red tops today. They probably don't even know its meaning #helmets'.
Clearly the deep thinker act was beginning to wear thin. I'll merely point out NPR is the USA's National Public Radio service. Even if he wears the shirt, I doubt Barton listens to it very much, particularly as the Americans don't allow him into the country because of his violent past.
But so what? I doubt he's read Seneca, Aristotle or Nietzsche either. At least it's entertaining, I suppose. And here's one last quote that seems strangely appropriate right now. It is from Thomas L Masson, to save Mr Barton any more online searches: 'Be yourself is about the worst advice you can give some people.'
Stars' crazy pay demands need a reality check
La Liga and Serie A stars are currently demanding 'wage guarantee funds' to ensure they get paid regardless of whether any clubs go to the wall. Right now, Spain and Italy are going to hell in a handcart and taking the world's economy with them, but as long as footballers can buy their Ferraris, eh? Incredible.
No grey areas for the Seasiders
Blackpool players are angry the club has implemented a clause in their contracts stating wages would revert to a Championship level following relegation. 'The pay cut was there in black and white, but is that right?' asks manager Ian Holloway. Well, yes. They aren't in the Premier League any more. They are in the Championship.
Why the confusion? Ian Holloway has questioned Blackpool's decision to cut player salaries, despite the clause being clear in contracts
Scots missed?One of the reasons put forward for the Scottish season's indecently early summer start was to boost their clubs' chances in the Champions League. With Glasgow Rangers crashing out of the competition while Apoel Nicosia from Cyprus and the Czech side Viktoria Plzen march on, the Scots might have to start next season's campaign in December, just to be sure.
Rory can be an all-American heroRory McIlroy surprised many by announcing he is returning to the US Tour circuit. Although numerous theories have been put forward, including changes in his personal life, the move makes perfect sporting sense, too. With Tiger Woods far from the all-conquering force he was, America is there for the taking. It is the perfect time.
An American tale: Rory McIlroy is set to return to the US Tour
Euro scepticEngland's qualification group for the 2014 World Cup is as follows: Montenegro, Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and San Marino. It sounds duller than a Eurovision semi-final sing-off. Wake me up when it's time for the finals in Brazil.
Relief for ManchesterMario Balotelli says the city of Manchester is 'not to his taste'. The local tourism office should use that as their advertising slogan. I can think of few greater reasons to love the place.
Martial starts: Mario Balotelli continues to amaze