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“You feel a need to inspire and be active on these sites otherwise …. people won’t remember your name”: Elite female athletes and the need to maintain ‘appropriate distance’ in navigating online gendered space

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journal contribution
posted on 10.12.2021, 09:54 by Michael SkeyMichael Skey, Molly Pocock
Although some scholars have argued that social media provide opportunities for sportswomen to bypass mainstream media reporting (Vann, 2014, Bruce, 2017), there is little existing research on how female athletes use, and experience, digital platforms. This paper uses insights from studies of ‘gendered visibility’ (Duffy & Hund, 2019) alongside work on ‘closeness and distance’ in journalism studies (Pantti, 2013) to put forward the concept of ‘appropriate distance’ when trying to understand how these athletes manage their time and engagements online. Drawing on interviews with UK-based elite sportswomen, the findings not only show how distance is carefully managed to protect themselves from negative comments and over-exposure online, but also the significance of building connections with young female followers. Indeed, the athletes prize their status as ‘role models’ and seek to provide ongoing support and a sense of community in what is often an antagonistic online space.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Communication and Media

Published in

New Media and Society


SAGE Publications


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Acceptance date









Dr Michael Skey. Deposit date: 9 December 2021