This post is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge from WordPress. This week’s Mind the Gap post is about a trending topic in the media. This is my opinion of how much social media influenced how I watched the “Socialympics.”
I was on vacation for most of the Olympics. Still, I watched the Olympics and was swept up in the fever. I live in Canada so watched most of my Olympic coverage on CTV and followed Canadian athletes. (I was not frustrated by the NBC tape-delay or pre-empting of results before broadcast.) I also watched international athletes: world records being set and broken, a record number of medals being won by a single individual, the first amputee competing in the Games, and athletes of all nations “inspire a generation,” as the London Games slogan suggested. The names of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Oscar Pistorius -to name only a few- were conversation topics more than once.
I was inspired by the dedication and training and stories of athletes leading up to their appearance at the Games. Knowing what an athlete had gone through to get to the Olympic stage created a more personal connection for me and I found myself more invested in that athlete than just watching an event of international participants. I didn’t blog about the Olympics directly, though I was motivated by the spirit of Olympic challenges. I wrote a post about two local athletes (aka Project Talaria) who are running the Leadville 100 to raise money for an organization that helps provide outdoor adventure activities for disabled persons. The dedication of Project Talaria was more personal and more directly inspiring to me than the international competitions I was watching.
For two weeks, the world turned away from itself. I didn’t watch the “news” or any regular programming I might have otherwise; I watched events, races, presentations, stories about the Olympics and checked results. After having the TV on for six hours one day (I didn’t sit there the entire time, it was more like background music where I could turn into something that specifically interested me), I wondered what was so captivating to me about the Olympics. I wasn’t influenced by what I was reading or seeing on any social media sites; I was watching out of my own interest.
As a runner and sometimes swimmer, I was inspired to watch how an individual at the peak of their athletic ability can perform. The Olympics are a fishbowl of pressure, spectators, emotions and anticipation. You do not participate in the Olympics because you are a rookie in your sport, however the amount of international attention and pressure is likely not a common experience at other events.
I did not post on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, or Tumblr about what I was watching on the Olympics. I only subscribe to Facebook, but it seemed irrelevant to post what I was watching on TV to my ‘friends.’ I did talk about the Olympics to people in person, people who were also watching the Olympics with me. But I did not feel the need to relay what everyone else had either already seen (or tweeted, blogged, etc) again. It’s fair to say that almost anyone with an inclination towards the Olympics now knows that Usain Bolt is being considered a Living Legend for his back-to-back wins.
The Olympics are a biennial collective social focus: we are not all athletes, but we are all easy spectators. Team GB had their best showing of an Olympic Games, yet the population is still more content to sit and watch than be motivated to move. Social media seems to have the same influence on how I viewed the Olympics. According to news reports, we may have been sharing and tweeting a lot more than ever before (athletes and spectators alike). However, how I watched and what I watched were not affected.
Perhaps because I’m not on Twitter I was not as involved in the stories behind the results. I think Twitter can make these stories more personal, or political, or draw more attention to what may not have been an issue before. I watched what interested me, not what someone had suggested, or what was ‘trending.’ Maybe my Olympic viewing was somewhat removed that way, simply seeing what was presented without the athletes’ or audience input. Maybe I just wanted to keep my distance.
I chose to watch the events as a moment in time, and then stepped back to my own reality: the nightly news, my own running schedule, and occasionally watching summer re-runs on TV.