In The Drum today, Matt Readman writes that US Open champion Emma Raducanu is lucky – she can be her authentic self on social media.

Athletes are starting to regain the ability to forge their own narrative. Through platforms like TikTok they can show another side to themselves, a truer side.

While I’m with Matt on the sentiment, the challenge facing Emma Raducanu is far from easy.

It’s true that all public figures – whether athletes, filmstars, politicians or CEOs – can manage their image, and control their narrative to some extent on social media. Emma Raducanu still needs to handle some massive potential pitfalls.

High profile

The role of social media in giving celebrities a voice is clear – but success levels vary.

Manchester United striker Cristiano Ronaldo can now choose the type of messaging he wants to send fans – to the embarrassment of big name sponsors. His teammate Marcus Rashford has used Twitter to challenge the government and change public policy. There’s no doubt Guardian-reading, Pringle sock-wearing Graeme Le Saux would have had a better time today if he’d owned his own Twitter account. The abuse he had to endure in the 1990s could have been silenced by a few family photos.

But high profile women – especially young women – still get a ridiculously hard time. While increased awareness of everyday sexism and events like #metoo have moved us on from the hate heyday of the noughties (see Pandora Sykes’ Britney Spears podcast for a textbook study of public image assassination), there’s a whole tangle of isms and issues for young women to deal with.

Here’s my advice to Emma Raducanu:

  1. Do buy up and verify your name across the major social media platforms.
  2. Do curate and own your own image.
  3. But don’t manage your own social media. Hire a trusted friend and/ or expert to do it for you.
  4. Don’t read all the comments. Ask your manager to tell you only what you need to know.
  5. However wonderful the coverage is now, do remember there’ll be a time when it’s not.
  6. Do take breaks from social media. Timed if necessary. Whole days/ weeks if you have to.

Towards parity

We’ve a long way to go before true parity as regards the treatment of women on social media. We’ve seen so many young women struggle.

Today, elite athletes – both men and women – are not only expected to compete and win at top level. They are also pushed to be gregarious and media-savvy. Willingly or not, they are inevitably cast as ambassadors and authentic voices of their generation. This adds an extra layer of pressure into an already high stress environment.

Just in the last few months, both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have withdrawn from top level competition, citing mental health issues. Emma Raducanu herself pulled out of this year’s Wimbledon. Luckily that decision seems to have worked in her favour.

By coming back and winning the US Open in New York last Saturday, Emma Raducanu proved she has a strong head and a fearless mentality. Let’s hope and pray she’s allowed to stay that way.

Photo by Prashant Gurung on Unsplash

Do we all need to delete old tweets?