Monday, August 6, 2012

Social Media and the Olympics: Instant Gratification or Spoiler Alert?

The first “social media Olympics” is underway, and the verdict is out as to whether Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms are actually enhancing the world’s Olympic experience.  The institution of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006 have primed the world to not only desire, but to expect instant access to international news topics, local events and who is eating a cheeseburger at the food joint down the street.

But, do we want this instant gratification when it comes to the Olympics?  For decades, families and friends have gathered together around the television to watch the Olympic Games without any hint about what might happen.  Today, flocks of Twitter and Facebook users are refusing to log-in to their accounts for fear of seeing live Olympic news ahead of its scheduled air time on prime time television.

There has always been something about the Olympics that brings people together, sparks unity among fellow countrymen and generates national pride.  In 2012, social media is taking that unity away from the Games, because it is eliminating the need to wait.  People can sign-in to their Twitter accounts at 2 p.m. in the afternoon to find news that would normally air on TV at 7 p.m.  The excitement and anticipation of the Olympics has been greatly dulled by social media.

On the flip side, social media has opened up an entirely new way for Olympic athletes to interact with their fans and critics.  Michael Phelps, one of the most popular and well-known swimmers in the world, has used his Twitter account to send positive messages to his nearly 1 million followers and thank his supporters. 

However, some other athletes’ use of social media has not been as positive.  According to the Wall Street Journal, two athletes were kicked out of the 2012 Olympic Games for posting controversial statements on Twitter, and at least one other was reprimanded for using social media to name their sponsors – a direct violation of Olympic rules.

Accessible on computers, tablets and virtually any hand-held device, social media has most definitely influenced the 2012 Olympic Games.  It has enabled the world to know what will happen before we have the chance to see it happen.

Although having access to news the second it happens has its benefits, we must also recognize that our need for instant gratification can sometimes spoil the excitement.

This blog was contributed by Britney Schaeffer.


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