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Unlike traditional media, which frames female athletes in sexualized manners and in socially accepted roles such as mothers and girlfriends, user-controlled social-media Web sites allow female athletes to control the image and brand they wish to portray to the public. Using Goffman’s theory of self-presentation, the current study aimed to investigate how female athletes were portraying themselves via their Twitter avatar pictures. A total of 207 verified Twitter avatars of female athletes from 6 sports were examined through a content analysis. The avatars from each player were coded using the following themes: athlete as social being, athlete as promotional figure, “selfie,” athletic competence, ambivalence, “girl next door,” and “sexy babe.” The results revealed that athletic competence was the most common theme, followed by selfie and athlete as social being. Thus, when women have the opportunity to control their image through social media they choose to focus on their athletic identities.
The authors are with the Dept. of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY.