Why I’m Following #SOCHI2014

After many years of self-imposed oblivion towards matters pertaining to sports, news, and world events, I am awakening to the importance of events like Sochi 2014 with a kind of bleary dull-headedness. (I’m also acutely more aware of pop culture scandals than I have been at any previous time in my life; but then again, who isn’t up-to-date on the  problems generated by Canada’s own Rob Ford and Justin Bieber, who both seem to be making world news with their antics).

Why is this the case? Notwithstanding the fact that I’m no longer a student and thus have more brain power to absorb things in the practical, worldly realm (rather than solely in the theoretical one), I have realized that these are the matters that most people talk about at work, in shopping lineups, and on social media. Knowing facts about these events can help lead you to friendships with new people in unfamiliar social terrain – unlike in university or college, where everyone is talking about classes, professors, and marks enough to let you relate to them on a general level.

My current state of being strongly connected to new and hot world news via Twitter and Facebook (to which I am constantly exposed, since they are on my Blackberry phone), has also allowed me to feel like I’m always on the cutting edge of what’s going on at the Sochi 2014 games. I knew immediately when only four of the five iconic Olympic rings deployed at the Opening Ceremony, and how controversy has developed around the condition of Olympic accommodations in Russia – leading to the hashtags #SochiFail and #SochiProblems.

Any kind of controversy that develops on social media in this manner is likely to also spill into more traditional forms of media (Dan, February 2014). Social network analysis has made some strides in illuminating how the nodes (i.e. individual actors in the network) and ties (i.e. relationships between actors within the network) of communication technologies and real-world people interact across time and space to produce these outcomes, but a lot remains unexplained in such complex systems (Mejias, October 2006; Wikipedia article).

Within these complex systems, people experience the “small-world phenomenon”, aka six degrees of separation (see for example Duncan J. Watts’ paper out of the Santa Fe Institute).  For me, the Sochi 2014 event is dimly connected to a family I went to grade school with ages ago – a girl named Jenna Blasman competed in the snowboarding events at the Olympics and I went to school with one of her brothers. Though I have no current social ties to this person, I still feel the pull of a distant social connection and the more immediate psychological phenomenon of hometown pride.

Social media and our global interconnectedness is changing how we interact and connect to other people, both hindering and helping us in a range of unexpected and novel ways. At the heart of the matter, this is why I’m following Sochi 2014 – to be able to talk to new people and connected remotely with people from my past.

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