Social media has generally been viewed in recent times as a positive thing to happen to athletes with regard to sponsorship opportunities and building a fan base.
However, on the other side of that there can also be a very negative side of high profile and high performance athletes using social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and there are also sometimes restrictions placed on these athletes on the content that they are allowed to post or share online. For example, ALL athletes around the world were prohibited by the IOC from advertising their sponsorship through their many different social media channels during the 2012 Olympic Games when they enforced their ‘Social Media Policy’. (Schwartzman 2012.) This meant that “Participants and other accredited persons are not permitted to promote any brand, product or service within a posting, blog or tweet…” which meant that sponsors of these athletes were not being recognised through social media and so they were unwilling to provide sponsorship to these athletes. (Schwartzman 2012.) This became a big issue for those athletes that were funded to go to the games solely through sponsorship that they relied on to allow them to compete in their chosen sport at a professional level.
Another reason why social media can be a negative experience for certain athletes is that there are many people – ordinary members of the public – who become so emotionally involved in a situation they feel a very strong urge to share their views on their individual social media sites and “tagging” those athletes who they are targeting their negative comments to. “Trolls lurk under the bridges they urge others to jump from. That’s Internet slang for those who regularly post offensive insults for little more than mean-spirited sport.”(Brady, E Ortiz, L J. 2013) For one American baseball player, he had daily Twitter “trolls” who were were sending him death threats on a daily basis. “It was just constant negativity” (Brady, E Ortiz, L J. 2013). “A study done in 2014 by Chris Symeon from CKSyme Media Group measured social media use for Division I and Division II NACAA athletes. On average, only 26% of these athletes has protected Twitter accounts, around 61.5% did not know all of their followers, and 14% had been a victim of online harassment such as unsolicited inappropriate material, account impersonation, angry fans messaging, or cyberbullying.” (Kingan, C. 2015) This shows that athletes are very open to bullying and harassment from the public on their Twitter accounts.
Negativity about sporting events over social media is common because of the highly intense nature of competition. (Pickering, B 2013) Although on Twitter, they ban the use of violence and threats, they are still very common on a daily basis, particularly around a time of high involvement such as around a Games. (Pickering, B 2013) For example, the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games was heavily bashed on social media. (Kosner, A. 2012) One negative tweet was from Conservative MP Aidan Burley: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!” (BBC, 2012) This very negative comment shows what was to be the most common view of the opening ceremony.
BBC (2012). Media reaction to London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony (online) Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19025686 (accessed 19 April 2015)
Kosner, A. (2012) Why Many In The U.S. Did Not Get The Olympics Opening Ceremony In London (Online) Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/07/31/why-many-in-the-u-s-did-not-get-the-olympics-opening-ceremony-in-london/ (Accessed 19 April 2015)
Brady, E and Ortiz, L J. (2013) For Athletes, Social Media is Not All Fun and Games. (Online) Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2013/07/31/for-athletes-social-media-not-all-fun-and-games/2606829/ (Accessed 28 April 2015)
Kingan, C. (2015)How to Limit the Negative Impact of Social Media on Athletes (Online) Available at: http://www.pivotphysicaltherapy.com/blog/how-to-limit-the-negative-impact-of-social-media-on-athletes/ (accessed 29 April 2015)
Ellison et al (2006) Managing impressions online. JCMC 11(2)
Schwartzman, E. (2012) Why The Olympic Games Social Media Policy Failed (Online) Available at: http://www.briansolis.com/2012/08/why-the-olympic-games-social-media-policy-failed/ (Accessed 20 April 2015)
Pickering, B. (2013) Athletes and Social Media: Untapped Goldmine or PR Landmine? (Online) Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-pickering/athletes-and-social-media_b_3082184.html (Accessed 19 April 2015)