The “Social Media Olympics” started with a bang as elite Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou was removed from her country’s Olympic team after tweeting (what many viewed as) a racist remark making light of Greece’s recent West Nile Virus outbreak. Papachristou also has posted videos on YouTube expressing support for the Golden Dawn political party, a far-right party whose members have expressed views supportive of Hitler and Nazism, so this isn’t necessarily an isolated incident.
In Peter Trapasso‘s great post, “How to Participate in the First Social Media Olympics” he recounted all of the ways that fans can interact with athletes and all of the initiatives on specific platforms to enhance the Olympic experience. Olympians are giving their fans unprecedented accessibility throughout these games and in theory that is very cool. I just wonder if we need all of that to enjoy the event?
Discounting the occasional Olympian Nazi sympathist who unapologetically makes light of a disease outbreak on Twitter, I wonder if the content and accessibility of the Social Media Olympics are really so interesting? There are exceptional Olympians who use social media (Lolo Jones comes immediately to mind), but for athletes who have sacrificed a large portion of their social life to be so elite I wonder if really dry, unengaging content or awkward social gaffes will be the norm? In any event, Olympians like Lolo will probably gain a lot of interest because of the deftness with which they keep people engaged through their social presence.
This just in…. The China Daily reports that Michael Phelps got in some hot water for criticizing the team swim cap, and some hurdler tweeted that he needed to urinate and it was retweeted a lot. This is not even remotely interesting – it’s banal and stupid. So if the Social Media Olympics morph into real time conversations between viewers on Twitter, a few tweets from Lolo Jones, and a whole lot of noise I’m totally fine with that, so long as I don’t have to listen to the noise.
It probably goes without saying that the Voula Papachristou incident will make these Social Media Olympics a whole lot less interesting. Now that athletes are on notice that their interactions could get them kicked off of their team, the likelihood that they’re going to say anything remotely controversial is pretty low (see: most corporate social media).
Maybe the Social Media Olympics will show people that they can integrate social platforms into their event and show some restraint to keep it engaging.