Inside the world of gymnastics, there is an online community of superfans who participate in what’s called the “Gymternet,” and these fans share news, post meet results and comment about anything in regards to gymnastics. There is even a website named thegymter.net. The University of Utah women’s gymnastics team views the Gymternet and social media as a positive for the program.
Co-head coach Megan Marsden knows Utah generally isn’t a vacation spot for recruits. They don’t stop by during their summer or winter break trips. The program has focused on building a brand by using social media, which allows them to show the world what the Red Rocks are doing.
The negative side to social media is anyone can comment about the programs and athletes, even if the words are strongly opinionated and degrading. Marsden, who is not an avid social media user in her life, gives feedback directly to her athletes because she believes face-to-face interactions are more personal and important since anybody can post anything on social media.
Sophomore MyKayla Skinner has experience with the Gymternet and harsh online critics. Earlier in her career, she would focus on what people were saying about her. This year, she switched her focus to only see the good things about social media and what it has brought her.
“I definitely have kind of stayed off social media a lot, especially Twitter,” Skinner said. “I will just notice the positive things or retweet a couple of things from the meets that have been going on or the rankings and stuff like that. I never really feed into the negativity. I stay in my own lane and think about the happy and good things that have come from gymnastics and the things that I’ve accomplished in the last couple of years.”
Skinner loves that she can connect with fans and keep in contact with her family through social media. She has learned she has a powerful online influence on the younger generation.
Senior Maddy Stover agrees there can be good in social media if used correctly.
“I also think of social media as a way to empower one another, support one another, encourage one another and support campaigns you believe in,” Stover said.
Stover, whose main focus is building up the Red Rocks’ program, tries to ignore the negative articles or blog posts. She believes when people do post inappropriate comments on social media about others, it’s probably a result of something going on in their own life. That being said, she tries to find the good people no matter what.
“Sometimes, I feel like the negative criticism … are everyone [else’s] insecurities coming out,” Stover said. “Maybe this person said some things about me because they’re struggling with it themselves, I’m not sure. I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt.”
Just how Stover likes to give people the benefit of the doubt, Marsden believes a face-to-face conversation is always the best option.
“I feel like many people put things on social media differently because they can hide behind a screen,” Marsden said. “I think that you’re best off to talk to a person in person to find out whether there’s an issue or a positive going on. That’s a better way to communicate with people rather than see what they’re posting on Facebook.”