The following post was contributed by Biters Hyeri Kim (NYC) and Courtney Geesey (SF).
By now, you’ve probably heard of the buzz surrounding London 2012 as the most social international event to date. The statistics are pretty impressive – for example, the opening ceremony resulted in 9.66 million tweets, surpassing the total number of tweets from 2008 Beijing Olympics in 24 hours. However, it hasn’t been all fun and games. Here’s our quick look at the good, the bad, and the ugly social media trends from the London Olympics.
One of the advantages of social media is being able to connect to anyone in the world. At this year’s Olympics, athletes are using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share their Olympics moments with fans. For example, after winning the gold medal for all-around team finals in women’s gymnastics for the USA, Jordyn Wieber, who has more than 300,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted to thank her fans, friends, and family. Thousands of followers, including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and President Obama, have tweeted her back to congratulate her and the “Fab Five” team.
Oscar Pistorius, the South African double amputee who made history by running in the 400 meter dash – something no other amputee has done – has also taken to his Twitter account to respond and thank all his fans and Olympic attendees for their support and well wishes. His last name has even become a hashtag that is synonymous with what the Olympic movement is all about – hope, sportsmanship and dignity.
In spite of the countless positive Twitter conversations taking place around the London Games, many conversations have taken a rapid turn south. In some cases, fans have targeted Olympians, Olympians have targeted announcers, and worst of all athletes have targeted one and another. With Twitter use at an all-time high, the London Games have been testing the limits of how far a conversation can go before actions are taken, and unfortunately those willing to test the boundaries have to deal with the consequences. This year alone, Olympics have faced arrests, scrutiny and in the worst cases, expulsion from the Olympic Games based on activity on their social channels.
And while social media lets us engage with our favorite Olympians, it often ruins the nail-biting drama of watching the games. Here in the US, NBC’s decision to tape-delay events to air in primetime means many of us have been utterly spoiled by real-time results online. The primary offender is Twitter, where many news outlets (and our friends and colleagues in other countries) announce the results as soon as the game, match or race ends. While we want to route for our team, many Americans have simply been avoiding Twitter, Facebook and social media outlets during the games. There’s even a browser extension to block Olympics-related spoilers on the web.
They say the world is a small place, and social media is making it even smaller. As we increasingly connect with people around the globe, and we all rally behind international events like the Olympics, how will we balance the positive aspects of seamless connections with the consequences of negative social interactions?