Social Media Coordinator
The 2012 Summer Olympics have been dubbed the "Social Olympics" by many, as this is the first time that social media has played such a crucial role in the Games. Some of the biggest news stories surrounding the Games were not about what happened on the field of play, but rather what was happening on social networks.
During the Games, Twitter trends were around Olympic topics; whether it's an athlete's name or an obscure sport, people talked about it on Twitter. As with most Olympics, feel good stories start to emerge, and social media has produced its fair share. When 17-year-old American swimmer Missy Franklin took home the gold in the 100m backstroke, it was mentioned on air that she was a huge fan of pop singer Justin Bieber. Upon hearing this, Bieber took to his Twitter account to congratulate Franklin, and it made headlines. After Franklin won more gold at the Games, Bieber tweeted a video message for Missy, which made even more headlines.
Justin Bieber wasn't the only celebrity using social media to connect with Olympic athletes. President Obama sent out a congratulatory tweet to Michael Phelps after Phelps won his record 19th Olympic medal. American gymnast Gabby Douglas received congratulatory tweets on her all-around gold medal from Oprah and Lil' Wayne. Social media has become such a staple at the Games that athletes are using it to document their experience through tweets and photos. NBC has even added social media segments featuring Ryan Seacrest to their nightly broadcasts where Seacrest reports on the latest social media trends.
With all the good stories coming from social media, there were some bad ones, as well. Two athletes were kicked out of the games for racist remarks, a fan was arrested for threatening the life of a British diver and a long-standing feud between U.S. soccer stars came to a boil all because of a few 140-character tweets.
NBC's coverage of the Games has also come under fire on Twitter. Many are dissatisfied with the time delay, and NBC's withholding of the more popular events from live TV in favor of tape-delayed prime-time viewing. Despite live-streaming all of the events online and via mobile apps, NBC has been criticized for not showing popular events like swimming and gymnastics during their live daytime coverage.
In this day and age when information is available instantaneously, tape-delayed sporting events are just not cutting it for most viewers. If you are one of the few who would rather watch and find out what happened, social media is not your friend. On a few occasions, I was one of those people, and it wasn’t an easy task to avoid reading the news. I had to censor my social feeds and limit my visits to some of my favorite websites to avoid finding out who won what.
Most of the people complaining about NBC's coverage via Twitter were dissatisfied and used the social network to voice their frustrations. The hash tag #NBCFail was used quite often on Twitter in regards to the network's poor coverage of the Games. Some took their dissatisfaction to another level. Notably, one Los Angeles-based British journalist, Guy Adams, had his Twitter account suspended after Twitter deemed he violated the terms of service by tweeting the email address of Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics. On NBC's urging, Twitter suspended Adams' account for giving out an individual's private information. Adams claimed that the email address was public and easily found online.
There are many lessons to be learned from these "Social Games," both good and bad: social networks are a great and easy way to connect with other people and gauge sentiment, but there are also precautions to take when posting on these open networks. What is said on Twitter or Facebook is public and permanent, so be mindful when publishing personal thoughts or ideas. We've seen the beauty and ugliness from these Games that have transpired through social media, from opening the lines of communication between the athletes and fans to potentially ruining the careers of participants and journalists. Social media has played a significant role in the 2012 Olympic Games, and it will continue to transform this ancient tradition into a cutting edge international exhibition.