USA’s Ryan Lochte competes in a men’s 400-meter individual medley at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Saturday, July 28, 2012.
Twitter is ruining the Olympics.
I’m not talking about Hope Solo, whose Twitter rant made major waves, tarnishing the reputation of U.S. women’s soccer. And I’m not talking about Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou, who became the first athlete banned from the Olympic Games for a comment posted on her Twitter. That said, the initial statement must ring true for them too.
I’m talking about Twitter-addicted fans, of which I am one.
I love Twitter. I love event television. And of course, I love the Games. For fans that share in those passions, London 2012 should be the perfect storm. Arguably the first real-time Olympics, this summer’s event is a culmination of trends in media consumption, aggregation and commentary that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years — namely social television.
According to the social networking service, Friday’s opening ceremony sparked 9.66 million tweets, topping the total number of Twitter posts during the entire 2008 Beijing Olympics in just one day.
For people like me, who are waiting for competitive hashtagging and tweets per minute to become official Olympic sports, this trending news should be a victory. Instead, this social maelstrom renders tweeting (and lest I forget watching) the Olympics a no-win game.
With so many ways to watch the Games — the stands, the live streams, the primetime broadcasts — the Olympics are in something of a catch-22. It’s a marvel that viewers now have this kind of access. But omni-channel consumption is eliminating one of the greatest triumphs of the event: global, communal viewership.
Moreover, when everyone’s watching the races at different times, spoilers of victories and defeats abound. If viewers opt for the later primetime broadcasts, it’s nearly inevitable they already know the outcome. It’s both the communal experience and the excitement of the unknown that make the Games event television. But those two elements seem to be slipping from the Olympics’ grasp.
During Olympics past, fans were enslaved to the schedule; be in front of the tube when the pistol fires or be forever in the dark. Today, you couldn’t be in the dark if you tried. The spoilers are everywhere you turn, so unless you’re prepared to go radio silent, you better glue your eyes to a live stream.
Last month, a fellow USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent lamented social media’s impact on the thrilling mystique of scripted television. Of course, this is no new grievance of the hyper-connected; spoilers come with the territory.
Socializing this event puts the spoilers gripe on steroids (alright, perhaps that was a touchy analogy). It’s the Olympics, for Phelps’ sake! It’s a rare happening of global import where god-like sculpted athletes wear hideous matching uniforms and make us weep with national pride. How can we stand to keep ruining the excitement for each other?
In the digital age, this is an issue that will plague sports and entertainment for a long time to come. But I wonder if there’s a way to put it on hold, just for these two sacred weeks.
A small request: The next time you want to tweet about the latest on the live stream, hold off for your friends who are bating breath for the evening broadcast.
Leave the real spoiling to the professionals at NBC.
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