Eli Manning merely confessed, in a dead-tree newspaper no less, that he did not Tweet. From the reaction, one got the impression that the Giants quarterback moved to a log cabin deep in the Pine Barrens.
“I’m definitely not on social media,’’ Manning confessed to the New York Post. “Don’t know much about it, just not for me.’’
Reporter Paul Schwarz didn’t say if Manning told him this on his rotary phone with Captain and Tennille blaring on his hi-fi 8-track in the background. But one imagines Manning more Techmo Bowl than Madden 16.
Eli’s sins against the Twittericans surely rank as a heresy against our age as well. One could even call it a giant treason. The government once snooped and spied on us. Now Uncle Sam’s watchers subscribe to our Twitter feeds, Facebook Friend us, and wait for our inevitable turns starring on reality-television. Social media is our patriotic duty.
East Germans scaled a wall to escape the stares of the Stasi. Americans feel unloved if their three-letter agencies don’t take an interest in their comings and goings. One can’t invade the privacy of an exhibitionist, which explains the muted responses to government encroachments into the private sphere of individuals. People in the TMI camp rarely tell anyone, let alone Uncle Sam, MYOB.
When Eli grew up in 1990s, narcissists still relied on mirrors. Now they use Instagram. Fifth-grade girls at least never forced us to read their diaries. Now bloggers expect us to care when they share. A short burst of wisdom then came in a fortune cookie. Now it arrives, minus the wisdom, via Twitter (invented for conceited people too ugly for reality television), which requires no such standard for intelligence as the idiot box does for looks.
Stupid is the new smart.
And Eli, though surely guilty of dumb-mugging the cameras on Sunday afternoons, boasts a higher IQ than the smart-set ridiculing his antediluvian ways. The Giants quarterback scored 39 on the Wonderlic, 11 points better than his brother, six points higher than Tom Brady, and eight points above the average chemist. Just because he talks like Huckleberry Hound doesn’t mean he thinks like him.
Perhaps Manning understands that free speech comes at a price for oversharing athletes.
ESPN suspended Curt Schilling for the rest of the season for the offense of re-tweeting on the dangers posed by Islamists. Pablo Sandoval lost a night in the starting lineup because he liked a woman worth liking on Instagram during a game. The NFL fined then Dolphins d-back Don Jones and sent him to sensitivity training for tweeting “OMG” and “horrible” in reaction to Michael Sam and his boyfriend’s cake-kiss after the St. Louis Rams drafted the pass rusher.
Social media’s drawbacks for sports celebrities appear plentiful; their benefits, scarce. No coach, fan, or executive has ever thought: our quarterback may throw like Lamar Latrell but, boy, he can really sling witticisms in 140 characters or less, so let’s keep him.
“I’m not going to take the time to be on my phone,” Eli told the Post. “Usually when I’m at home, I try to avoid the phone, I try to be with my family and have a conversation with the people around me rather than trying to communicate with a bunch of people I don’t know.’’
The people who don’t know him just want to get to know him—on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, YouTube, and other more obscure neighborhoods in the worldwide web. Eli Manning prefers to let his play, and two Super Bowl rings, speak for him—and let flesh-and-blood humans rather than their digital intermediaries speak to him.