The official Twitter handle of the 2014 Olympic games (@Sochi2014) has about 271,000 followers; however, because of the state of disrepair in which journalists found Sochi, the handle that gained popularity (@SochiProblems) has 337,000 followers. Each has a corresponding hashtag as well, and the use of the #SochiProblems went viral as people posted statuses and pictures of their experiences.
The Twitter phenomenon started when reporters arrived in Sochi to find hotels not quite finished and started tweeting using #Sochi and #Sochi2014. As more people started to tweet about what they found in Sochi and the tweets gained popularity, the hashtag “SochiProblems” started being used specifically to document the unpleasant conditions in Sochi. Traditional news outlets started picking up the stories along with pictures, then used them during television reports and wrote news articles about the conditions.
The living conditions and the resulting social media trend that followed sparked a number of different discussions. At first people in the U.S. seemed horrified by the state of Sochi hotels and the Olympic grounds, but as more came out, people in Russia started to respond in kind. Most mocked the uptight attitudes of the reporters that complained about conditions that people living in Russia have to deal with year round and not just for the short time during which the Olympics occur. Many pointed out how small minded the reporters were being for not realizing that conditions may be different in a foreign country. Others pointed out that Soviet athletes had to live in equally dismal situations when the Olympics were held in Lake Placid in 1980.
What started as a social media trend and a bit of joke has turned into a serious conversation between countries and has been a learning experience for both sides. Foreign journalists have been ridiculed for their possibly culturally insensitive comments and closed minded views of travelling to other countries, and people all over the world have been included in the discussion of the events surrounding the Sochi Olympics. Social media at its best? Or worst?Lauren Crewell, Graduate Student University of Loyola Maryland Master of Arts in Emerging Media