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Swimmers: no escape from Twitter Olympics
Neda Vanovac
15:44 AEST Thu Aug 16 2012

It's been called the social media Olympics - the first time audiences have had such unfettered access to the doings of athletes in real time - but it's not all for the best, the Australian swimming team say.

More than 28.4 million tweets about the London Olympics were posted in the first 10 days of competition, as fans and athletes interacted directly.

But athletes have been vulnerable to personal attacks on Twitter - as well as accusations of spending far too much time using the social networking site in the lead-up to competition.

"I try to stay away from (all) media - something I learnt last time," says Olympic veteran and gold medallist Cate Campbell.

But some of her greener teammates didn't have the experience to stay away.

Emily Seebohm said in London that she spent too long on Twitter and Facebook in the lead-up to her 100m backstroke final, a factor contributing to her medal being silver rather than gold.

But she'd changed her mind by the time she arrived home.

"I love my social media - for the people that support you, it's nice for them to see what you're doing," she told reporters in Sydney.

"I wouldn't get off Twitter and Facebook ... I don't see it as ruining my performance at all."

But three-time Olympian Eamon Sullivan said the difference between the Beijing and London Olympics was stark.

"In Beijing, most of the media was in Chinese so, even if you wanted to, you couldn't really understand what was going on - we were more in a bubble," he said.

Facebook had 100 million users four years ago and has 900 million now.

"Beijing wasn't much of a social media Olympics but, at this one, it was everywhere," Sullivan said.

"(It's) one trap some of the younger guys fell into, reading Twitter or negative press and letting it get to them.

"Unfortunately, there's some negative commentators on Twitter who like to sit back and have a go at athletes for giving it a go, but there's actually quite a lot of support as well.

"It only takes one (negative comment) to make you feel like less of an athlete."

And while getting direct positive feedback from fans is a major boost to athletes, attacks can hurt all the more.

Three-time London medallist Seebohm wasn't prepared for the abuse levelled at her after she burst into tears following a silver-medal performance in the 100m backstroke.

"I was shocked when there were bad responses to the way we performed," she said, having since decided to block abusive Twitter users rather than trying to reason with them.

"There's no way of protecting yourself from negative comments but it's just about blocking it out and moving on - reading good and disregarding the bad."

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