It’s not just the athletes who are setting records at the XXX Summer Olympics. Social Media, Mobile and Big Data are strutting their stuff on the world stage as well.

Headlines all over the web tout with amazement that the London Games are the most “liked,” tweeted, and tagged in history. And while that is certainly true, it’s hardly surprising.

Social Media was not nearly as widely adopted during the 2008 Games in Beijing (consider that Twitter ranked 23rd among social networking sites at the time), smartphones were more the exception than the rule and iPads wouldn’t even be introduced until 2010. Even though the large quantities of data that we now call Big Data were certainly present, the new platform of tools required to successfully handle sense-making over that data was available to very few. These technologies are all being used quite widely today.

While these technological capabilities are certainly awesome, it’s how they’re being applied that proves to be not only interesting but also, at times, a bit questionable.

Tweeting For the Fans

First the good stuff: Twitter is, no doubt, the social media star of the show. The 2012 Olympics has its own Twitter channel where users can not only get updates on the games but also communicate directly with attendees and athletes as well. @London2012 has no fewer than 1,491,364 followers.

Olympic athletes like USA hurdler Lolo Jones @lolojones, wrestler Jordan Burrroughs @alliseeisgold, swimmers Michael Phelps @michaelphelps, and Ryan Lochte @ryanlochte tweet not only to communicate directly with their followers and fans but also to promote their sponsors as well:

Ryan Lochte ‏@ryanlochte
Thanks to @Gillette for everything. One of the best sponsors I could have ever had and the best razor in the world

Others, like weightlifter Zoe Smith @ZoePabloSmith, tweet in true stream of consciousness style. Smith tells her followers what events she’s watching, when she’s hungry, who she’s rooting for and more.

Though an uncensored bullying tweet-stream might not pose a problem for Zoe Smith who’s not afraid to take her followers on and whose fans will defend her on sites such as Tumblr,

British weightlifter Zoe Smith won fans when she hit back at attacks on Twitter saying she looked like a “lesbian” and a “bloke,” addressing her critics as “chauvinistic, pigheaded blokes who feel emasculated (as) we ... are stronger than them.” “We don’t lift weights in order to look hot,” said 18-year-old Smith, who set at new British record at London where she came 12th in the women’s 58kg class. “We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble."
"Fat? We are fit. Get over it, say women athletes." -- Yahoo! Sports

not everyone wants to communicate back and forth other than to say hello and thanks.

If You Don't have Anything Nice to Say ...

This approach might prove to be quite wise given that two Olympians were kicked off their teams and sent home because of their tweets.

What might be viewed as a cruel tasteless comment among a group of friends and foes in the physical world can become a career-tainting, life-changing calamity when it’s done at the Olympics on Twitter. And this can happen to those who aren’t even physically present at the games.

Consider that last Tuesday a 17 year old boy, who uses @Rileyy_69 as his Twitter handle, was arrested miles away from the stadium at 2:00 A.M. for “suspicion of malicious communication," which in this case meant sending hurtful tweets.

It seems that he was upset with British diver Tom Daley (@TomDaley1994) for failing to win a gold medal in the pairs competition.

ЯIᄂΣY JЦПIӨЯ@Rileyy_69
@TomDaley1994 @laurenmay_xo he let the whole country down he's a little boy who's competing against men

 

ЯIᄂΣY JЦПIӨЯ ‏@Rileyy_69
@TomDaley1994 you really didn't try your best tommy you said you'd do your country proud and you let us all down rather support a tramp tbh

 

and then @TomDaley1994 acknowledged the berating:

Tom Daley @TomDaley1994
After giving it my all...you get idiot's sending me this..RT @Rileyy_69: @TomDaley1994 you let your dad down i hope you know

 

ЯIᄂΣY JЦПIӨЯ@Rileyy_69 haha Tom Daley just tweeted me now i know he's feeling bad.

Though it’s yet to be seen if the “suspected” tweeter will get charged as an as adult (if at all), sent to reform school or simply sent to bed without supper, one thing is certain: there shall be no bullying of public personalities on Twitter.

It’s interesting to note, that @Rileyy_69 was taken in to the police station at 2:00 A.M. not from a hotel in London or his parents’ home, but a guest house many miles away. And while it might be tempting to credit Big Data for tracking the ill-tweeter down, it may be just as likely that the GPS system on the phone he was tweeting from gave him away.

Editor's Note: Virginia Backaitis has been covering other Twitter problems at the 2012 Summer Olympics 

-- Tweet Trouble at the Olympics