Douglas earned more than two million new Instagram followers in four days

The Tokyo Olympics were a life-changing experience for Douglas Souza. The Brazilian outside hitter didn’t get to return home with a gold medal around his neck, as he did five years before in Rio, but the magnitude of the event and his Instagram account provided people from around the world with an opportunity to get to know him better – and they loved what they saw.

The 26-year-old Brazilian became a social media phenomenon in the days that preceded the start of the Games and the first days of competition with his light-hearted and entertaining posts, which allowed followers to be part of his daily routine and witness first-hand his spontaneous and fun way of approaching the tournament.

Among the most popular posts on his account were a video in which he jumped and danced on his cardboard bed at the Olympic Village, and others that showed hilarious interactions with his teammate and roommate Mauricio Borges.

Posts exploded in popularity and made Douglas one of the most followed athletes in the early days of the event, catapulting his Instagram followers from around 260,000 to 2.2 million in just four days.

“I was shocked at the beginning,” he said. “It was very weird for me to see all those people following me out of nowhere. I was thinking: ‘Where are all these people coming from?’.”

Concerns that his social media success could lead him to lose focus on playing or negatively affect the Brazilian team who were defending their Olympic gold medal were immediately shut down by coach Renan Dal Zotto, who supported the player and reflected on the reasons of his tremendous success.

“This is just who he is, a very genuine and spontaneous guy,” Renan explained. “And people like it, that’s why they follow him. My entire family is following Douglas and they’re having a lot of fun. And the best part is that he’s been able to separate things really well and this isn’t impacting his performance at all. That makes all of us really happy and proud of him, because he deserves this recognition.”


The Brazilian outside hitter in action during the Tokyo Games

After the Games, Douglas moved to Italy to play overseas for the first time in his career, for Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia. His posts showing his behind-the-scenes struggles with the trip and settling in a new country entertained fans and grew his following on Instagram to over three million. He also hosted some well-attended lives in which he plays computer games online.

“The most rewarding thing, without a doubt, is all the support I get on social media,” he commented. “Everything that happened in my career, especially after the Tokyo Olympics, where I got a lot of attention... I didn't expect that. I get texts every day from many people saying that they identify with me and that’s really nice.”

“The only message I can send to the people who follow me and like what I do is ‘just be yourself’”, he said. “Everything is fine, don’t be afraid to be who you are and just keep acting the way you feel like acting.”