Athletes came together in Sydney on Wednesday for their second collective Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) briefing that covered issues including anti-doping, camaraderie and security.
But another central topic was social media, and the perils it can pose to an Olympian at a time when intense focus should prevail.
It’s a sticky subject, given online platforms such as Twitter were one element of a damning 2013 review that found a “toxic culture” marred Australia’s swimming team at the 2012 Games.
The AOC tackled the Twitter question by asking athletes whether they wanted to “tweet or compete” in Rio, supplementing their case with videos featuring two of Australia’s most successful London athletes.
Both 100-metre hurdles gold medallist Sally Pearson and track cycling gold medallist Anna Meares swore by their decision to turn off all social media accounts on arrival at the athletes’ village.
While negative public feedback such as online bullying and trolling can certainly fuel unhelpful emotions, some athletes have found out the hard way that positive online reinforcement can also disrupt performance.
In 2012, swimming silver medallist Emily Seebohm conceded her love of social media may have cost her gold, saying the influx of encouragement following her super-fast 100m backstroke heat almost had her believing she had won her final before she’d even swum it.
The decision has ultimately been left to individuals, and each have a slightly different approach.
BMX golden girl Caroline Buchanan is not keen to go cold turkey, counting her Twitter following and YouTube channel as part of her success routine.
“It’s been a part of my daily environment, I’ve won world titles and national championships with it,” the 2012 Games finalist said.
“So for me, I would like to continue it.”
Buchanan has opted for a compromise, planning to employ someone she trusts to post photos and tweets to her account so fans can keep up to date while she is shielded from responses.
Track cyclist Kaarle McCulloch is “definitely going to put it away”, and her decision is two-fold.
“As an individual and knowing myself really well, you can get sucked in a little bit to the pressure,” said McCulloch, who shared bronze with Meares in the 2012 team sprint.
“But the more important thing for me is to limit the screen time.
“When you’re on your phone and you wanted to go to bed at 10pm and then suddenly it’s 10.30pm, the time just gets away from you.
“And out of everything an athlete can do, sleep is the most important recovery and performance tool.”
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