A persons identity online can be changed dramatically through the use of social media. Professional athletes, and especially those who the media view as “celebrities” and those who compete at highly contested sporting events such as the Commonwealth Games or the Olympic Games, have to portray themselves in a certain way through their social media sites in order to gain positive recognition and build a fan base. Through this, they may attract potential sponsors or they may also keep their existing sponsorship happy through their use of social media. It has become almost too easy to change the way that others can view an athlete online – through altering, highlighting or hiding certain aspects of their lives in order to minimise the social consequences that a certain aspect may have on their success. “Goffman’s work on self-presentation explicates the ways in which an individual may engage in strategic activities “to convey an impression to others which it is in his interests to convey”” (Ellison., et al. 2006)
However, the identity of an athlete online and through the use of digital media can be very damaging to their image, be it false or true. For example, Usain Bolt is renowned for his exceptional sprinting and athletic talents and is branded as the fastest man on earth. This, although a very positive image, can be difficult then to sustain a positive reputation. Usain Bolt also holds a reputation for being a womaniser, seen in this photo with 3 female athletes at London 2012 Olympic Games on a night out – which was soon all over the media bashing Usain with a bad reputation.
On the other side of this though, through many acts of what seems to be kindness and good humour, he is also recognised as having a great sense of humour as shown here, where he shows his generosity right before the final of the olympic games – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zyHXavtpes and also here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8wr4G9f4g4 – where he excites the crowd at the Commonwealth Games by “fist-pumping” a volunteer. These videos and images instantly went viral on YouTube and shared on various social media platforms, portraying Usain as a warm hearted generous athlete, and soon his womanising ways seemed to be quickly forgotten.
Ellison et al (2006) Managing impressions online. JCMC 11(2)
Siibak (2010) Constructing masculinity in a social networking site, Young, 18
Valkenburg and Peter (2008) Adolescents’ identity experiments on the Internet, Communication Research 35(2)
Blakely, J. (2012) How Social Media is Changing Sports Markting. (Online) Available at: http://www.postano.com/blog/how-social-media-is-changing-sports-marketing (Accessed 18 April 2015)