Social Media, Digital Technology and Athlete Abuse

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


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
focuses 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
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
EditorsSanderson Jimmy
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Limited
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-80071-683-4
ISBN (Print)978-1-80071-684-1
Publication statusPublished - 07 Apr 2022


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