Cheer with more than your thumbs

February 28, 2012|By Ryan Smith | For RedEye

It's silly to me that whenever sports are represented in a novel or movie set in a dystopian future, it's always about how people will be forced to murder each other as part of a grotesque professional sport/reality show. If anything, recent rules changes have rendered most sports less violent, making anything in "The Hunger Games" or "Rollerball" pretty unlikely.

A more realistic piece of science fiction involving sports would be something like this: In 2020, the New York Jeremy Lins (Linsanity, indeed!) defeat the aging Derrick Rose-led Bulls in dead silence while 20,000 spectators and millions of others at sports bars and homes stare down at their iPhone 17G smartphones to tweet, post status updates and check in.

OK, it's a little bit of an exaggeration, but there's no doubting the evidence that for better or worse, smartphones and social media are becoming an integral part of the sports viewing experience for the under-35 set.

According to a recent online survey from GMR Marketing, 83 percent of respondents ages 30-34 said they used social media while watching a game on TV and 63 percent use it while attending a live sporting event.

Whether this is a positive or negative development, I think, depends on the context.

I think social media is a great way to feel connected to others when you're watching sports alone. I flew solo at a Cubs game last summer, and I had a great time live-tweeting the game and reading comments from other people I like online. I do the same thing when I'm watching the Bears or Bulls at home and I can't get together with friends.

On the other hand, if you're with friends and family at the game or at a sports bar and you're too distracted Facebooking thoughts about the Cubs' terrible bullpen rather than engaging the people who are physically around you, you're being a jerk.

Social media should be a tool enhancing our connection to others, not replacing your real-life presence with a virtual one.

Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.

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