The 2012 Houston Web Awards

The Houston Press rides the wave to the next group of winners.

Jump to page 3 to see the full list of 2012 Houston Web Awards winners. Also check out this video of cover model and Houston Texan Connor Barwin talking about his favorite Houston Hangouts.

If there is one thing we have learned about covering social media in Houston, it's that nothing stays the same. People come and go, customs change and quirkiness prevails. Looking back on the last three or so years of coverage of the Bayou City social media cocoon, we saw names that have faded away, but most of them have stuck to it for better or worse. The best thing to do is ride the wave and hope we at least get some good restaurant recommendations out of the deal.

The winners of this year's second Houston Web Awards make each day on social media better and brighter as we shadow their days through their pictures, updates and 140-character one-liners. They are discovering things about our city for us all to enjoy, just by keeping their eyes and ears open. These are our fellow Houstonians (plus one burly Detroit transplant) who keep us all coming back for more each day, even though we should really get back to work.when you think of a pro football player, what comes to mind is the exact opposite of Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin. He goes to indie-rock shows on the regular, drives only one car (a Prius) and uses Twitter to find street artists to paint murals on his living-room wall. He has a shock of tall, thick brown hair that has become his calling card. If he weren't built like, well, an NFL linebacker, people would ask him what band he's in.

Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin relaxes in his downtown apartment with his father's old acoustic guitar. Don't worry; he's not quitting sacking QBs for the coffeehouse circuit.
Sherman Hatton
Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin relaxes in his downtown apartment with his father's old acoustic guitar. Don't worry; he's not quitting sacking QBs for the coffeehouse circuit.
Christian Palmer strikes a serious pose in a Montrose thrift store.
Lisa Ramirez
Christian Palmer strikes a serious pose in a Montrose thrift store.

It just so happens that his "band" plays regular gigs most Sundays — and sometimes Monday nights — in the fall and can number nearly 60 members. The Detroit native joined Twitter during his rookie year in the NFL back in 2009, straight out of the University of Cincinnati. Three years ago, which might as well be a decade in social media time, athletes weren't using Twitter as they are now, and if they were, they were doing it badly. There have been hiccups: complaining, oversharing, drunken rambling along the way, even some suspensions.

It took time for most pro athletes to get the hang of it, but the younger guys of Generation Y who grew up with social media as a constant in their lives took to it more easily. In his early twenties, Barwin was ripe to become a local Twitter sensation, now looking at more than 25,000 followers. But it wasn't so easy in the beginning.

"You're shy, stressed out, not really confident in putting yourself out there," says Barwin. The pressures of being a rookie in the NFL are legion, among them learning a whole new language and team culture the moment a player signs on the dotted line after college. Barwin shied away from Facebook ("ex-girlfriends"); its news feed full of food, babies and Internet memes was too much. Twitter helped him focus his interests and discover things about Houston.

"I get to show people what I am like away from football," Barwin says, smiling. It also gives him a chance to crowdsource ideas, like helping birth "Bulls on Parade."

Last season, during the Texans' improbable run of success after they lost two quarterbacks and defensive end Mario Williams to injuries, Barwin took to Twitter to ask followers what his cunning and ruthless defensive line should be nicknamed. The ideas came flooding in, but one stood out, from fan Louie Guerra, and his "Bulls on Parade" entry soon became a Twitter hashtag, a battle cry at games, and came preloaded with a great (albeit political) Rage Against the Machine song to boot. The rest is Houston sports history. But what about that hair, Connor?

"I love my hair," he says, laughing. It started last season when a CBS crew decided that Barwin and his enviable do resembled Seinfeld's Cosmo Kramer, putting up a picture of the two side by side to bring the point home. Ever since, hair has been an obsession with the team. "It's turned into a gimmick or whatever, ever since the Kramer thing happened, so I will keep it as long as I can."

Barwin recently made waves in the sports community by celebrating President Barack Obama's support of same-sex marriage in early May. That day on his Twitter feed, Barwin made it clear that he was happy with Obama's words and stood with the Commander in Chief on marriage equality. He was elated.

This was an astonishing thing for an NFL player to intimate to the public, with the league's notoriously macho, hetero culture. Barwin tweeted: "Those of us with gay relatives and friends understand how meaningful and positive this is." The fact that his stance got so much press proves that the NFL may have a ways to go, but Barwin's happy to be a pioneer.

His words were met with a positive reaction from his social media family, though a few followers disagreed, some of them quoting Biblical scriptures to make their points. And he actually ended up gaining more followers along the way, some of whom weren't even football fans, and all it took was three or four tweets of progressive thinking.

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2 comments
Huh...
Huh...

Seriously? Plonk? They update their FB page every 10 days. If HP qualifies that as good communication with their fans, they should try writing a story every 10 days and see if that system works better for them.

Throwaway
Throwaway

Conner is douchey. There was a long line to get into Little Woodrow's before the rugby game at the Dynamo Stadium. He tried to cut straight to the front with about 7 other guys. The bouncer refused, thankfully.

 
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