Olympians spend nearly the entirety of their lives training. And yet, no amount of preparation could possibly ready them for the scariest judges of all– the general public.
For 17 days, these athletes lay prey to viewers all over the world. The London 2012 Olympics have been no exception. Dubbed the “Social Olympics,” sites like Twitter now encourage conversation in addition to observation, further connecting our world of both Olympians and viewers alike. Whereas in the past, fans would merely ogle at their TV screens at these valiant men and women representing their respective countries, we can now search up their social media profile and get a glimpse into their lives. Now here comes the shocking part– it seems that despite superhuman athletic ability, most of these athletes are quite noticeably..human?
However, because of their current status, their innate human-ness comes at a price. And unfortunately that price is fierce judgement from their viewers. Understandably, it is impossible for viewers to see everything from every angle. And so, we do as viewers have always done– take what we know and run with it.
Do you recognize the name Michel Morganella? Probably not. But surely you must have heard of the Swiss soccer player expelled from the Olympics for his allegedly racist tweet towards South Koreans. What about Paraskevi Papachristou? Does that name ring a bell? No? Well, how about the Greek athlete banned for her racist Twitter comment? More familiar, right? Doomed to the same fate, the names of Morganella and Papachristou have now both been tainted because of their poor decision making. Neither will be remembered for their athletic ability nor their spirit, but rather, their <140 character utterances that cost them a shot at making Olympic history.
In real life, who we are is composed of several different facets. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to really get to know a person through and through. But for some reason, online, all we need to know is one thing before we feel we know a person. What ends up happening is that that one thing– that one sole facet of their being–defines them. It becomes who they are. Such is the case with Morganella and Papachristou. Their poorly-thought-out tweets have unfortunately shaped their identity, and there is little else they can do about it.
Other Olympians have also had certain aspects of themselves exposed and magnified due to social media. Many will recognize gymnast Jordyn Wieber as The Girl Who Cried In Front Of Everybody, diver Tom Daley as The Fatherless Diver Victimized By A Heartless Tweeter, goalkeeper Hope Solo as The Sharp-Tongued and Cocky Chirper, and the Norweigan referee of the Canada vs USA Women’s Soccer Semifinal as The 12th Member of Team USA.
We too are sometimes observed in a way similar to how we observe Olympians. And likewise, conclusions may be drawn about who we are based off of a single action or moment in our lives. While this is neither fair nor accurate all the time, it is the trend that seems to follow our use of social media. And though reception isn’t always negative, it seems we as humans have a strange tendency to gravitate towards such stories.
Maybe it would be helpful to occasionally put ourselves in the eyes of a critical stranger before posting something online. In a world where online presence has almost eclipsed first impressions, it has become highly essential to ensure that our online presence represents who we are in a positive way.
How would people recognize and remember you based on your current online activity?