by Melissa Brunner
Nearly a week into what's been dubbed the first "Twitter" Olympics and we're hearing all sorts of rumblings about a downside to social media. All that instant information can be a drawback when you don't want to know the information this instant!
It used to be that, when Olympics were held on the other side of the world, avoiding the results before the competition aired on tape-delay that night in your time zone was as simple as a sportscaster saying, "Turn your back while I show the results on the screen for those who can't wait!" In today's Twitter and Facebook world, it's not that easy. For example, one account I follow on Twitter will merely say, "Women's gymnastics complete - click for results." But another will say, "(insert country here) places (insert result here)."
The growth of Twitter over the past four years is evident - Twitter said more people tweeted about the Olympics Thursday, before the opening ceremony, than had during the entire Beijing Olympics in 2008. Broadcasters blamed Twitter for interfering with their data stream during weekend cycling coverage, leading to a supposed request for fans to limit their Tweeting to only urgent matters. We've also heard of athletes sparking controversy for their tweets - U.S. soccer player Hope Solo criticized former player-turned-commentator Brandi Chastain while a Swiss soccer player was sent home for offensive comments about South Korea.
I, for one, don't mind knowing the result before seeing the event. If I see a result, I then want to know what unfolded that led to that result. Others hate that - feeling it ruins the event if they know how it ends. All the criticism and cries of ruined suspense don't seem to be hurting television viewing - the first weekend saw record ratings. Perhaps the buzz of Twitter isn't such a buzz-killer after all!