The 2012 Summer Olympics…Or Is It The 2012 Social Media Olympics?

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This blog post was written by Jamee S., a senior at Virginia Tech and a communications intern at GillespieHall.

What do you remember about the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing? Was it watching Michael Phelps make Olympic history by demolishing the world record for the number of gold medals won in a single Olympics games? Or was it watching USA’s Nastia Luikin and Shawn Johnson dominate women’s gymnastics by taking gold and silver in the all-around competition?

Whatever your favorite moment was, I doubt you could predict it. Let alone, read about it, hours before on spoiler sites everywhere, including Twitter and Facebook.

I doubt many of you even knew what Twitter was in 2008.

Social media usage has surged since the last summer games. According to The Washington Post, Twitter had about 300,000 tweets per day in 2008. Now, it has over 400 million. Sure, you’re thinking Facebook was more popular back then. Well yes, Facebook had about 100 million active users in the summer of 2008 but now? Even more popular… with 900 million fans!

Do you remember receiving hourly updates from your favorite athletes themselves? You wished you could in 2008.

Now, in 2012 you can practically stalk an athlete from the time they wake up to the time they finish their dinner and head to bed. Oh wait, athletes’ lives are more exciting than that, right? Right. We know because we read all about it on Twitter.

For the first time, athletes are using social media, and are actually encouraged to, by the International Olympic Committee.

Minutes after 17-year-old Missy Franklin won gold in the 100 Backstroke, we were crying all over again, reading her heartfelt tweets, thanking her coach and parents.

Social media is adding an extra level of excitement to the Olympics. It’s shaking up the way we experience the Olympics.

But it isn’t all good.

Social media is the big, bad monster in the eyes of Voula Papachristo and Michel Morganella, two athletes whose Olympic performances were determined by 140 characters.

Papachristo, a Greek triple jumper was expelled from her first chance at a medal when she posted a racist comment.

Her Olympic doom was repeated by the Morganella, the Swiss soccer player, when he too tweeted an offensive comment about the South Korean soccer team.

Although both Olympians apologized for their explicit behavior on the internet, explaining that the comments were made in the heat of defeat or in Papachristo’s case, as a joke, their dreams of competing in the Olympics were cut short.

And yes, what about the rest of us? The ones whose dreams of actually watching our favorite athletes achieve Olympic history are ripped away from us as we innocently skim Twitter, only to see hours before Franklin’s event was televised, “OMG she did it! Her first GOLD.”

Or for those select few who went a whole day without checking the Internet, avoiding spoilers, only to be disappointed. As we anxiously waited until a few minutes before Franklin’s televised race, only to see a 30-second Today Show promo commercial of Franklin hugging her parents with a gold medal in hand.

A 30-second clip was all it took to ruin the moment.

Just like in every Olympics, there is triumph and victory, but there’s also defeat.

Does your company have a social media policy? If not, contact GillespieHall and we can help you create one!

What do you think of the 2012 Social Media Olympics? Have you been enthusiastically following your favorite athlete on Twitter? Or have you experienced defeat when your favorite moment was taken away by spoilers? Let us know!

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  • Bob
    Posted at 13:19h, 06 August

    The social media has made TV watching challenging (& less enjoyable) to say the least. I try not to logon during the day because it ruins what’s happening that night. Yet ,inevitably you listen to everyone’s chatter around (at Wawa, water cooler, elavator) and you hear the build up of important events (like gold medals won) before we see ever get to see them in so called “Live” moments of TV. TV may be a thing of the past for updated Olympics.

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