My Take on the “Social Media Olympics”

Somewhat surprisingly, I LOVED the 2012 Summer Olympics.  I don’t remember past years of truly enjoying the competition, sportsmanship and storied emotion of the games.   In fact, I really don’t remember even tuning in.  This year, I found myself reveling in sports that typically don’t even cross my mind, and anticipated watching the incredible competitions each night on TV.

A week into Olympics coverage, however, I learned the hard way I needed to avoid the internet during the day at all costs (I’m talking to you, JS Online.  Thanks for wrecking the glorious Gabby Douglas win with a spoiler on your front page in the middle of the day).  On the afternoon of the Women’s Beach Volleyball final, I avoided all media outlets in anticipation of sitting down that evening with a glass of wine, my husband and dog at my side, and taking in the excitement.  NOTHING was going to wreck watching my new Olympic favorites, Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh Jennings, go for gold and down in the record books as Olympic legends.

That was, until I accidentally launched my Internet Explorer.  And the MSN homepage flashed “BREAKING NEWS:  MISTY MAY AND KERRY WALSH WIN GOLD!”

Awesome. Thanks a bunch.

During this fabulous Olympic time, it seemed as if trying to avoid online spoilers became a sport onto itself.  The challenges of global time delay and the fundamental differences between online and traditional media proved interesting for these so-called “Social Media Olympics.”   In a world where we’re plugged in at all times – with smartphones and tablets happily glued to our hands – it’s the expectation that we’re up-to-the-second on everything.  The growing need to stay informed at all times necessarily conflicts with watching primetime, tape-delayed TV “live.”

Some may argue, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,”…blah, blah, blah.   With just a little journalistic standard from our media friends, however, we absolutely can.   It’s simple: a little consistent restraint from online news sources, with homepage headlines that don’t give the results away.  Or simply a “SPOILER” warning on the link to the article.  Relevant, up-to-the-minute news still gets to the audience that wants it, and those attempting to “go dark” get to happily move on to another page and toward a night enjoying the Olympics the old fashioned way.

So forget the “Social Media Olympics.”  Here’s a call for Rio in 2016 to be the “Spoiler-Free Olympics.”