Piers Morgan vs Rio Ferdinand: The Twitter catfight

The media loves Twitter. The media loves celebrities. The media really loves celebrities feuding. The media really, really, loves a feuding celebrity being told off. Add all of that together and you’ve got the perfect ‘news’ story.

Esteemed and trusted media house, The Guardian, with much apparent glee late last night (UK time) ran a story on how former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand had apparently been contacted by an official from Twitter who told him to cease “cyber-bullying” under the headline, “Twitter shows Rio Ferdinand yellow card for cyberbullying Piers Morgan”.

The website stopcyberbullying.org defines cyber-bullying in part as, “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones”. In this context, it does make sense that these two, who show all the physical signs of being adults, but few of the mental faculties would be party to “cyber-bullying”.

However, I get ahead of myself.

This all began earlier this month when Arsenal FC fan and CNN Talk Show Host, Piers Morgan – making a jibe at Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand’s delicate disposition on the field – tweeted “Not injured AGAIN, Sicknote?” Sicknote being his nick-name for Ferdinand. Ferdinand, showing all the maturity to be expected of a footballer and failing one of the primary precepts of the digital age, “engage brain before typing” didn’t take this sitting down and replied.

What followed was a ‘riveting’ exchange of wit and class between the two.

With rejoinders such as “oh well done u r back from your belly+moob watch!! Are we in an IQ test you cumberland sausage?” by Ferdinand and “my triceps are wider than your whole body, Sicknote. And you’d pull a hamstring just walking to the middle of the ring. #weakling” by Morgan, it was a banter which would have seamlessly fit into the pages of any Oscar Wilde plays.

Matters escalated when Ferdinand gathered his followers and successfully got a phrase that any 12-year old would have been happy to toss out on the playground, “Piers has moobs (man boobs)” to trend first in the UK Local Trends and ultimately worldwide with the hashtag #piershasmoobs.

For the following days, whenever the spat between Morgan and Ferdinand would flare up, without fail the hashtag would trend as well. It was then that last night Ferdinand tweeted “A Twitter rep just called and said can I hold back on Piers as it seems I’m cyber bullying…I apologise if that’s how it seems! #thetruth” immediately followed by “How can piers really ring twitter reps like that…c’mon son! Twitter I’m just stating facts…. #piershasmoobs”.

Googling “rio ferdinand cyberbullying” shows just how much the media, following The Guardian’s lead, immediately ran rampant with the story.

Of course, no such thing had ever happened as Ferdinand – erudite as ever – hardly an hour later admitted to, tweeting: “The word gullible comes to mind!!!! Sucked right in!!! #piershasmoobs !!”

Ironically, it would seem this was the very thing which was needed to end this most epic of ‘feuds’ with Morgan tweeting “Congrats, genuinely, to @rioferdy5 on successfully conning @mediaguardian into believing his Twitter bullying story #dumblentileaters.”

Twitter — as has been written many times before, and been shown through recent, far more important events – is without doubt a great tool for the media. But one of Ferdinand’s tweets perfectly sums up the lesson the media must learn when it comes to Twitter, says it all: “Wow the media need to relax tweeps!! Get a grip!”



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