Maia and Alex explain their social media strategy:
Maia: I don't know if we really have a strategy ... we like to give back or share with the fans.It's not charity on their part - obviously they're interested in film, enjoy brainstorming and executing a video, and are excited when it's a hit. It's a way for them to enjoy "film production", be creative in a different way, and express themselves. That's understood - they like it. It's not some burden they've assumed out of obligation to their fans. And of course not every figure skater is going to have the talent, energy or interest in creating this particular type of engagement with fans.
Alex: I think it's nice for the fans to see a different side of us. It's one thing to see through the screen or live our performances on the ice, but I think it's special for them to be able to get to know us better as people and I think it's always interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes at a show or at a competition, so we try do our best to share that with them."
Still, when Alex says "get to know us better as people" it has nothing to do with revealing personal information. "Birthday beer with Grandma" and sharing a subject he and Maia study at school is about as personal as it gets. So once again - letting fans get to know a figure skater as a person simply means sharing an appropriate experience. It's not employing overbearing Skate Canada directors as camera hogging intermediaries between the figure skaters and the public, while flogging over-personal, yet fabricated, stories about the skaters.
I also felt that the Shibs talked about studying and used Tessa's favorite word - "balance" - without sounding pedantic or patronizing, as Tessa can when she "explains" school. Their examples of the scheduling challenges they face when it comes to school also sounds realistic, and they put their academic drive in context. They're not 100% self-referential.
As figure skaters, the Shibs/DW/VM have a lot in common. All train in privileged circumstances. Same training center. All of them can take family to every competition if they want to, no matter where in the world it's being held - or at least VM can take Kate. If they want many costume options, to bring in outside dance specialists or any other type of value add - they can and do without worrying over much about the cost, unlike many figure skaters, and their lifestyle (clothes, vacations, non-competitive travel) isn't compromised. If they want to go to university, they go to university, without worry that they can't afford ultra expensive training plus tuition. So, that's nice.
One of these teams is not like the other two when it comes to how they handle public relations. One team behave like people from a reality show who've acquired an inflated idea of their importance and fame, while the other two appear to behave more sensibly. Maia and Alex want fans to share in their experience, get to know them as people, and they produce funny videos shot behind the scenes to share with fans. The outlier team puts out a book and markets it as an opportunity for fans to go behind the scenes, when in reality the book is jammed with fabrications and its aim is to manipulate and misdirect fans, creating even more of a barrier.*
I wonder if the difference is the community where these teams are from. The Shibs are from Connecticut, and New York, DW are from Ann Arbor (which has a lot more going on than just figure skating - even after the Olympics Charlie White said he was hardly ever recognized even on his own campus). The world doesn't orbit around them. They have a good sense of where they fit in in the scheme of things, and while they have a public profile, it's nothing that can't be managed. It's just figure skating. The people where they come from have lives. Meryl Davis and Charlie White aren't the most exciting thing to ever happen to Ann Arbor, and the Shibs haven't validated Connecticut and put the good people of New York City on the map.
Scott and Tessa are the biggest thing in Ilderton and everybody knows them. They may feel as if they're the biggest thing in parts of London, Ontario as well. I just wonder if it's the community's fault fans are treated like shit by Scott and Tessa. If Scott and Tessa's experience with their community led them to believe it would be worse by a factor of a gazillion to bring strangers (fans) into it.
It's great to have community support; it might be less great to have everyone in your home town feel a proprietary interest in you and your personal business, everyone in your home town(s) eager to collar you and offer their advice, and to have everybody in your home town eager for the validation of your time and attention, flooding your mailbox and your relatives' in-boxes and voicemails with requests, invitations, favors, advice and comments about stuff that's really none of their business, but then again, they watched you grow up, so they're entitled, and knew you when, and you haven't changed or gotten too big for your britches have you?
I've always sort of admired Katia Gordeeva's brutal account of Sergei's funeral - it was in Moscow and half a million relatives descended on the service, all of them with opinions as to why he died, what should have been done instead, why were they living in Connecticut, etc. etc., and it was important that Katia herself hear their views.
It was unbearable. These are people who had good intentions, but Sergei wasn't the mechanic down the street - he was an internationally known athlete, and all the relatives and locals were that much more invested in their opinions and feelings, and virtually smothered Gordeeva with them.
The sham definitely was also a good displacement activity for community members - everybody could get busy on facebook after Scott's part was done (he'd often posed for the photos with Jessica way before they saw the light of day) and he and Tessa could get on with their lives and have some privacy, not from fans, but from those who knew them and felt as if they had proprietary rights.
Something gave Scott and Tessa a distorted idea of what it would be like to have fans know even basic facts about their actual status. Maybe they wrongly extrapolated from what it was like to have neighbors, friends, relatives know their business. And of course there's guilt from knowing you were supported and cheered on, or that the stands are packed when you compete at home, but you might also be wishing they'd turn their attention to something else, and crawl back out from up your hind ends.
So maybe they assumed fans knowing would be a gazillion times worse than having everyone in their home town know, and that was already awful - and exhausting.
However, fans are a totally different animal, and a sports management team that had half a brain would have quickly settled their minds about that. Instead they have Skate Canada, which made a lot of ignorant, no-logic, untested assumptions about a lot of stuff, including the public and fan management, and then set about creating solutions to problems Skate Canada had made up. The sham was certainly a boon to Debbi, however, and several others in their Directorships.
When the reveal happens, fans are going to be patronized up one side and down the other. There's nothing that Scott and Tessa can say that can justify the absurdities, the egocentricities, and the arrogance, but more and more it appears to me as if there are some people in Ilderton and London who need to broaden their minds and maybe acquire some maturity and self awareness. Maybe the way many of them jumped on board to "handle" fans for Scott and Tessa is a reflection of the way they interacted with Scott and Tessa themselves. Boorish, intrusive and tactless.
*I also wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book - former coaches and the like, were informed that the book was also going to include a lie about a year-long rift after her shin surgery, and aggressively reaffirm the lie that they are and have always been platonic. IOW, I wonder if some of those interviewed for Scott and Tessa's book were aware that the realities they shared were going to be used to help enhance the plausibility of the lies Scott and Tessa intended to tell.