By now, most people have already heard about the recent uproars about Twitter caused by Olympic athletes, fans and reporters. Basically, in an Olympic Games touted to be the “first” social media games, a few things have gone awry.
Two athletes have been kicked off their teams and one has been reprimanded for inappropriate comments on Twitter, one fan was arrested after his Twitter remarks were flagged as malicious communication, and journalist Guy Adams had his Twitter account suspended for criticizing NBC Olympic coverage and publishing the email address of an NBC executive.
The stories mentioned involve lots of details and lots of claims from people on both sides of the arguments they present. But, there are two things that we can take from these Twitter experiences: the mic is always on and social media has power to bring masses together.
The Mic is Always On
I had a public relations teacher in college who always reminded us that “the mic is always on.” This means that no matter how private or personal you think your communications are, there is always a chance that they will be intercepted by a third party. This is especially true for people who are in the spotlight or who represent a company in one way or another.
Even though the athletes and fans may have thought their Tweets were simply one in a sea of millions of 140-character messages, they were wrong. Because of the world-wide attention these people are receiving, they are being watched carefully, and what they say and do speaks volumes about them as athletes and citizens, the Olympics, the countries they represent and even sponsors.
The story of Adams’ suspension opens up a whole new dialogue about freedom of speech and the role of social media in journalism. Regardless of where you (or Adams) stand on that issue, the fact that a few tweets were enough to bar someone from social media is proof that the mic is always on.
Social Media Has Power to Bring Masses Together
There is a power within social media that once grasped, can bring masses of people together. Many fans who are unhappy about the delayed Olympic coverage NBC is providing have taken to ranting on Twitter. The hashtag #NBCfail has been trending off and on since the Olympics began. Many athletes have been tweeting with the hashtags #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange, as a way to express their disagreement about IOC rules that don’t allow them to use social media to promote their sponsors.
Although NBC probably isn’t going to change the way it airs the Olympics, and the IOC likely won’t amend its regulations, these trends are great examples of how social media can bring groups of people from all over the world together. When there is a common cause, or people share a passion for something, there is no better way to bring them together than through social media.