If you are a Twitter user and find yourself primarily using it for ranting and stumping on your own soapbox, you might want to be careful. It is easy to sit behind a computer or smart device and feel immune (or oblivious) to the consequences of your words, but the nature of social media and sharing gives you a much larger audience than you might anticipate. That audience could include employers, potential employers, or (in the case of some Olympic athletes) the IOC (International Olympic Committee). We are only couple of days into the summer games and already two athletes have been banned from participating and stripped of their Olympic credentials for messages they've tweeted. Others have taken to Twitter to protest a rule against athletes being able to promote their sponsors on their own Twitter accounts.
The first athlete to be banned from the Olympics for a tweet was jumper Voula Papachristou from Greece. She tweeted a racist comment about competitors from another country. This would have been Papachristou's first Olympic games, but unfortunately she'll be remembered for being the first competitor ever to be banned for an inappropriate tweet than for her athleticism.
Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella has also been banned from Olympic competition for an inappropriate tweet. Again, the message was deemed to be racist and was posted after Switzerland lost to South Korea on July 29.
Improprieties are not limited to the Olympic athletes. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was charged by the Football Association today (July 30) for improper conduct for comments made on his Twitter account. Like the two above, this tweet was deemed racist.
Athletes are also using Twitter in a more positive ways - to affect change by protesting the IOC's Rule 40 which states that Olympic athletes cannot promote any brands that are not permitted by the IOC or a national Olympic committee during the span of the games - including tweeting about said companies. American athletes have been very active in the protest, especially the track and field athletes. You can follow the protest at #Rule40 and #WeDemandChange on Twitter.
There is way too much to celebrate during the Olympic games, regardless of who you root for. Please watch what you tweet or post in the heat of the moment and show respect. It is possible to voice disappointment (or even disagreement) without attacking someone else or stooping to racist comments. Remember to be civil; your posts are more far-reaching than you realize...and being civil is something we should not have to be reminded of. Mitch Harden makes a great point as well with his comment below - "don't be racist regardless of medium." You can read Mitch's blog here.