Social media, digital technology and athlete abuse

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this chapter is to examine the presence of abuse enacted through virtual mediums with a specific focus on how athletes can become the targets of online hate. The chapter introduces social media and explores the role it has played in the increasing reliance on virtual worlds. The impact of digital technology on sport in particular is framed in order to demonstrate how digital technologies are now a vital component in our consumption of sport. The primary focus of the chapter is on how virtual spaces can pose significant risk(s). Freedom of speech, shifting power and the lack of safety and regulation in virtual spaces are all presented. Finally, recommendations are made for future research in the area in order to develop understanding of abuse augmented by virtual environments and to develop the focus on virtual safeguarding in sport and beyond.

Design/methodology/approach: This chapter synthesises and discusses existing literature from the disciplines of sport, social media and abuse, with a view to understand and address prominent issues encountered by athletes in the virtual world.

Findings: By examining abuse through a sociological lens, this chapter focusses on the factors that promote or enable abuse to occur online (often without regulation). The types of abuse experienced in virtual spaces are legion and this adds to the complexity of policing and/or safeguarding online environments.

Research limitations/implications: The chapter makes recommendations for a number of future areas of study that will extend the current understanding of abuse in virtual environments.

Originality/value: The chapter provides a synthesis of the emerging area of virtual abuse and its links to sociology as a discipline. It offers insight into power in virtual spaces as a critical frame of reference for understanding virtual interactions and parasocial relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSport, social media, and digital technology
Subtitle of host publicationSociological approaches
EditorsJimmy Sanderson
Place of PublicationBingley, UK
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781800716834
ISBN (Print)9781800716841
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameResearch in the Sociology of Sport
ISSN (Print)1476-2854


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