Only looking in – Twitter, T-mobile, the BBC and the Olympics

View from the Castellamare across Bracelet Bay, The Gower (also shows a large gin and tonic!)

The chalet bungalow we holidayed in, on the edge of a cliff near Mumbles, provided my smart-phone with very poor and sporadic connections. For example to post this photo to my friends and family to say we’d started our holiday, I was ‘forced’ to visit the nearest restaurant (from which the view was taken) and sit on it’s wall look at that view!

This may of course suggest that T-mobile need more ‘goomballs’ on The Gower, but it also heralded a period of digital silence in the family.

Intermittently my phone (kept on for text communication with wandering teenager) would download chunks of the latest Tweets from my Twitter friends, so I tried to interact as normal. But no, at that point the phone constantly refused to do anything further, having decided it didn’t have enough ‘goomballs’ after all.

So I was left watching the tweets roll past, unable to download links, frustrated at being left out of the conversation; the digital equivalent of a silent movie! Facebook was even worse – I couldn’t get that to work at all! And thus, I was probably more on holiday than I might otherwise have been šŸ˜‰

However, the second week of our holiday coincided with the start of the Olympics. Watching lots of the BBC coverage (partly as the weather turned rather ‘Welsh’) it became obvious that first week how much the BBC presenters were relying on Twitter for their ‘storyline’. Pre-event, there was engagement with the watching public about the mechanics of a particular sport (by Matthew Pinsent for example), and post event analysis and response from public figures (regurgitated on screen and by Gary Lineker, for example.)

It initially seemed good to see the encouragement offered by fellow Olympians and others for Team GBs efforts, and their own sense of community was obvious, even if some made ill-advised comments on proceedings (like about the Badminton fiasco.) But it didn’t seem to include tweets from the general public, except by those with a relationship to the competitor, which sometimes seemed too personal and possibly shouldn’t have been published.

But, despite on one occasion being alerted to major excitement (Wiggo’s impending awesomeness) by the real-time tweets of Dave Walker and Emma Goldby when the T-mobile ‘goomballs’ were working, I couldn’t even say thank you for the tip-off as I couldn’t engage in two-way conversation. Neither could I download the much vaunted Olympic app from the BBC, or even the headlines from the normal BBCNews app. All utterly frustrating.

Yet, I continued to read, and on occasion read out loud to the family, the tweets of friends and their retweets of the famous, enjoying the humour andĀ appositeĀ appraisal of events, as the Twitter feed rolled past.

But when I returned home, downloaded the (excellent) Olympic app, I’d sort of got out of the habit of engaging with my Twitter community and didn’t really bother during the second week of the Olympics, though I still watched the feed scroll past. Even the BBC lost interest in Twitter, as I saw almost no Tweets recycled for the public interest, and the presenters seemed more comfortable with Team GB creating it’s own storyline of medals!

So, what did I reflect on all this digital ‘voyeurism’ as I mis-termed it?

1) I rely on digital news far more than ever before, and don’t really want to wait for set ‘news broadcasts’ on the TV, but instead have got used to having news ‘on demand’. I also rely on people I trust (my Twitter community) to create my ‘news feed’ for me, which means I’m probably almost too selective, since I’ve self-selected my Twitter friends!

The ancient monument at Parc le Breos near The Gower Heritage Centre – not much signal here, unsurprisingly!

2) Digital media is a bit rubbish in rural, hilly and wooded areas (we tried several other locations whilst wandering The Gower, none were great.) meaning that these communities are presumably being left ‘digitally backward’. If their domestic internet supply is equally tricky, those of us who are social media aware need to remember when we work in and with such communities that more traditional forms of communication are of paramount importance.

3) Twitter is habit forming, but it is possible to slip out of the community and quietly stop engaging without the community really noticing (at least I don’t think that many did, even when IĀ consciouslyĀ made myself start to re-engage this week). Disengaging to spend more time with the family is probably a good thing, but to then ‘secretly’ watch Twitter, only looking in from the sidelines, seems on reflection to have been rather odd and unhealthy, despite the Olympic sized contributory cause.

4) Why did the BBC dis-engage with Twitter themselves, when I am quite sure they (presenters and producers alike) were watching the Olympic and Team GB Twitter feed scroll post them far more than I was!?

So I’m left wondering, what was your digital experience of the Olympics, and how do you cope when forced to take a digital holiday? Do we know why the BBC dropped the idea of repeating Tweets?

[‘goomballs’ is a well-used family word taken from the 2000AD ‘graphic novels’ and specifically the ACE Trucking Company, and therefore pre-dating the ‘urban dictionary’ definition of the word!



One comment

  1. Interesting to read this in the light of my own twitter silence through last week holidaying in another spot with no connectivity! Yes, I missed you šŸ™‚ and I too was surprised how fast one falls out of community as well as into community. But perhaps we all know it’s holiday season, that we have families, and probably no coverage!

    I rather enjoyed my twitter holiday, but was frustrated by not being able to load Facebook at all – which tends to be how I keep in touch with more “face to face” friends. But now I will perhaps spend a bit of time gradually discovering what I’ve missed!


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