Never have the Olympics so heavily relied on the high-speed communication, social media and all the perks that come with the Internet that we have become so comfortable with. From Yahoo! to CNN, these sites’ news feeds have circulated Olympic data. Medal counts, records broken; you name it. But what appear to be covering most of the front pages lately are controversies, closely affiliated with social media and specifically, Twitter. The question lies whether giving social media such authoritative power during these Olympic games should be looked at optimistically or otherwise.
Athletes sending tweets? Posting podium pictures for their followers to instantly see and enjoy the Olympic experience with them? Sounds great! But these games have proven that social media can get out of control and that the communications tool should be not taken lightly.
What Can Go Wrong?
The first instant occurred even before the Olympic torch was lit. We all remember the Greek triple jumper, Voula Papachristou who sent a tweet gaining a lot of publicity on July 22nd, when the Olympics were scheduled to begin on the 27th. Talk about a debut. The tweet stated, “so many Africans in Greece at least West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food”. The Olympic Committee did not receive it lightly. It was the first time an athlete was eliminated due to post on Twitter, or any proclamation on a social media site for that matter.
She wasn’t the only one to experience the backlash of an inappropriate tweet. Swiss defender, Michel Morganella sent a tweet perceived as racist against his South Korean opponents after losing to them in a soccer match. He was also eliminated, as was the post he sent on Twitter. His bad sportsmanship and access to social media cost him his Olympic career and produced global humiliation. Who knew 140 characters could so much damage.
Even the American icon, Hope Solo received bad publicity through the micro blogging service. After supposedly appearing on the Today show drunk with her teammates, the talented goalkeeper started a Twitter war with broadcaster and former soccer great Brandi Chastain. The risky remarks thrown from athlete to athlete were of no serious offense, but if the tweets were not accessible, the conflict could have been avoided and all soccer legends could just get along.
Athletic Victims of Social Media
The athletes of these Olympics are not always the culprits. The social media tool can place them in shallow end of the pool also. A teenager in Dorset, England, most likely a social media expert, tweeted at British diver Tom Daley taunting the aquatic athlete about his dead father. Daley’s father passed away last year due to brain cancer and the 17-year old made an impact on the diver’s mindset before a dive.
The Right Way to Tweet
Sure, there are positive and uplifting tweets. After Michael Phelps won his 22nd medal, you could expect his feed to be all smiles and high fives. Usain Bolt, Jamaican sprinter, tweeted about his recent haircut in the Olympic village instead of commenting on being called the fastest man alive.
These athletes are using Twitter the correct way. They know followers believe in them and simply want to be inspired. Olympic athletes know they have a large following. They know their posts are being read. Some embrace this and use it to promote their strong morals. Others use it as a megaphone to proclaim their strong beliefs.
Did the World of Social Media Learn Anything from These Mishaps?
Twitter, Facebook and all other kinds of social media allow civilians to communicate with famous athletes and vice versa. This is an absolute privilege but these Olympic games have proven that this pleasure can been handled inappropriately. If more mishaps and conflicts happen due to sensitive Tweets and statuses, where does that leave these micro blogging services in future athletic events? It may just take more rebellious athletes kicked out of the games before any real rules are made to enforce what takes up those 140 characters.