One Dirty Magazine

#Whut?! Imagine Trail Running Without Social Media

If a trail runner does an epic run and it’s not on social media, did it really happen?

Brian Metzler June 23rd, 2020

#Whut?! Imagine Trail Running Without Social Media

“Just completed virtual 100-miler on my neighborhood trails. Woot! Woot!” #covidrunning #quarantinerunning #ultrarunning

“I’m running 3 miles every four hours for 48 hours. Who wants to join me?” #justgorun #backyardepic

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?

If a trail runner does an epic run and it’s not on social media, did it really happen?

No idea about the first one, but the latter might be debatable in this day and age.

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, trail running existed and no one posted anything about their epic runs, race finishes or even their trail running shoes anywhere. No Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

OK, sure, that was probably circa 2005 or so and the world has changed a lot since then — and quite a bit in the past four months — but how did we ever exist without it? And could we ever exist again without social media?

Some of it is well-intended and very purposeful. Some of it is lighthearted and good fun. And some of it is very inspiring. But let’s face it, some of it is just pure vanity.

Nowadays, you can’t pick up your phone without seeing trail-running pics or videos from dozens of people you know … er, um, dozens of people you follow but don’t really know. Some of it is well-intended and very purposeful. Some of it is lighthearted and good fun. And some of it is very inspiring.

But let’s face it, some of it is just pure vanity.

In many ways, social media has become an integral part of the fabric of our lives, especially when it comes to the long-overdue need for change when it comes to racial injustice, sharing political views and managing through the new normal of COVID-19 over the past several months.

It has been stirring and inspiring to see so much hard and honest discussion about racial injustice, police brutality, the anti-racism and BlackLivesMatter on social media. As for the information (and misinformation) I’ve seen about coronavirus on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook, well, it’s been amusing at best.

But the focus of this column is about trail running and social media. And #WTF and #OMG, it’s gotten out of hand.

My social feeds regularly provide me with a smorgasbord of day-in-the-life scenes from runners — trail runners, marathoners, track athletes and fitness runners alike. And that’s generally a good thing, although, to be honest, it’s become purely instinct to “like” or double-tap the ones that really catch my eye or inspire me. I love seeing friends on mountain peaks, running scenic trails along a seashore and just about any form of adventure running or scenes from hard workouts.

I do try avoid liking images or messages that don’t appeal to me, but, to be honest, I still find the instinct to “like” images is pretty strong — either because I know the poster or I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt that their intent was something other than the self-indulgent narcissism it turned out to be

I do try avoid liking images or messages that don’t appeal to me, but, to be honest, I still find the instinct to “like” images is pretty strong — either because I know the poster or I try to give that person the benefit of the doubt that their intent was something other than the self-indulgent narcissism it turned out to be.

But I have to admit, I don’t like seeing fake or set-up shots. You know, the action shots that look real like a magazine cover but on further review you can tell they were set up to look amazing. Selfies are generally nothing but hubristic vanity, but, OK, it is a functional approach to taking a self-portrait in an amazing locale. #trailunning #runner #ultrarunning (Yes, I have seen trail runners snapping pics on peaks with a “selfie stick,” believe it or not.)

Although it’s ridiculous for me to imagine, it seems a lot of the best-looking shots on Instagram are the result of someone asking their running buddy to stop mid-run and snap a pic of that person right there running through some epic scene so it can be posted on their social feed. I’d prefer to see the scenery, but I get that the composition looks better with a runner in it. #lookatme

And yes, there are also runners who create up timer shots, setting their smartphone camera with a 10-second delay so they can run through the frame at just the right moment with either a huge smile or a gritty grimace. #imsoepic

And then there’s the runner who posts something to glorify their race finish — a finish line shot, a podium shot or even a post-race hug shot. #icrushedit

One of the worst types of posts among trail runners is the pseudo pro athlete who feels compelled to tag numerous sponsors in every post. I’m happy for you that you can earn a few bucks running, but I don’t need a neon billboard suggesting that I should click on it. #RunningShoeBrand #NutritionBrand #ApparelBrand #SockBrand #Clickandbuystuff

Fortunately, most trail runners aren’t narcissist fitness poseurs who have a habit of showing off their chiseled physiques courtesy of some diarrhetic tea, probably.  Typically it’s about an 8-mile run at 9-minute pace with the runner smiling and doing some kind of standing crunch to hype their abs. #imsuchahottie

But that begs the question, what are we really doing on social media anyway? Numerous studies have shown that the psychological effects of likes, shares and comments are actually detrimental to our mental health — mostly because what we’re posting or commenting on or reacting to isn’t truly authentic. #itsmakebelieve

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that liking more posts is tied to worse mental and physical health and “decreased life satisfaction,” while another study by the University of Copenhagen has suggested that many people suffer from “Facebook Envy,” the concept of being jealous of friends’ activities on social media.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that liking more posts is tied to worse mental and physical health and “decreased life satisfaction,” while another study by the University of Copenhagen has suggested that many people suffer from “Facebook Envy,” the concept of being jealous of friends’ activities on social media.

I am often inspired, but definitely not jealous or envious of anyone’s else’s activities. However, I do find myself occasionally suffering from something I call Bucket List Overload, a mental trap that entails me putting yet another thing on my already lengthy list of places and races I want to visit as a trail runner.

For me, trail running has always been about getting away, with trail running buddies or on my own. Part of the allure is going places — near or far, common or remote — that energize me and make me want to stay detached. And yes, OK, sometimes I share shots from my runs and adventures, but more often than not I don’t. A lot of times, I feel that posting makes my trail endeavors feel a bit shallow. No need to send postcards from the edge, even if the apps on my phone seems to be begging me to make a post. The joy I get from my trail running is mine to cherish, but hopefully, those around me can sense from the smile on my face, the tone in my voice and the spring in my step that I’ve been up to something pretty cool.

Brian Metzler is a contributing editor to Trail Runner.

               
   
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Robert
Robert
19 days ago

I do love seeing pics of people running but I love it when I look closer and they are not sweating, have a full face of makeup, and clean clothes. They really think we are stupid sometimes.

Robert
Robert
19 days ago

They aren’t harming anyone, so more power to them, although these pictures are a source of humor when you can see in the snow where they ran a little ways and then circled back to get a picture of themselves running joyfully.

Holly Macriss
Holly Macriss
19 days ago

A lot of the pictures a I take end up in my Garmin stat so I can remember where I was and who I was with. But I totally agree that posting for the sake of posting is kind of a drag. And I absolutely agree with you about bucket list overload! What I’ve had to get over is the FOMO that had me at the beginning of this shutdown. I would see friends running trails and wish I could be out there with them – or just out there. Now that our trails are open and I have a friend or two to travel them with, my soul is happier. Happy trails to you!

Dennis
Dennis
19 days ago

Nice article. I guess I would click the Like button but there isn’t one. Good for me and my mental health 😉.
I’m big on using social media to see what friends are doing, but I’m aware that I get a bit envious when I’m stuck at work seeing others out there doing amazing things.

And agree 100% about product hash tags. What a waste of space. I wonder how many people tag their shoe companies while said company just enjoys the free advertising. Who cares what brands people wear anyways?

Good ol' days
Good ol' days
19 days ago

If a trail runner does an epic run and it’s not on social media, did it really happen? Ugh…..Thank you for identifying what the problem is. Way too many people think their worth is established by posting something about what they are doing or have done. How about a challenge to your readers to forego social media for one year? I’m guessing after going through withdrawals most of them would find how relaxing and less stressful their trail running adventures would be. The true epic accomplishments by those capable of them are all that need to be publicized.

Brenda Kerr
Brenda Kerr
19 days ago

How about the ones where they actually are sweaty, but they’re looking up at their camera with the phone angled down into their sweaty cleavage with a pouty lip face. And I’m not just picking on women, I’ve seen guys do it too. 🙂

c2runit
c2runit
19 days ago

I am so thankful for those who need to claim the attention of social fame in the digital world: it allows my silence to resonate within my self. I really like being a yeti who runs imaginary runs.

Amy Burnett
Amy Burnett
19 days ago

Sorry, Brian, but you lost me when you chose a pic of Mirna Valerio (@themirnavator) for the image directly below your sentence about trail runner vanity. Of all the trail runners, Mirna has had to overcome literal mountains to feel comfortable posting pics of herself as she writes, “a larger woman in a world of thinner athletes”. She is a sponsored athlete, so, unlike others, it’s actually her job to post running selfies in beautiful locales. I’m not disputing your intended message, but I ask, would you have chosen a pic from Scott Jurek’s Instagram page to illustrate your point?

Zoe Hrom
Admin
19 days ago

Hey There Amy! Editor here! I chose that picture (not Brian) because I’m a huge fan of Mirna. The placement was a total accident, we we think the world of her and her work! We picked these photos because we thought they illustrated the very BEST of what social media brings to the table. Thank you so much for reading and responding!

Beep Beep Breen
Beep Beep Breen
19 days ago

Thank you Amy, agreed. I don’t think we need to attack our own community. Especially those that have overcome a ton to just be a runner and get out the door. It’s a big topic but we should just try to take the positives and not look to disparage others that want to click away and play.

Firefly
Firefly
18 days ago

Join the discussion…

Firefly
Firefly
18 days ago

Absolutely spot on Amy! Yes, there are some narcissists who get carried away (probably the same people that have to post pictures of every meal they eat) but I truly enjoy the Mirnavator. She is in a completely different arena, and inspires many of us to keep going.

Will
Will
19 days ago

The closest that I do to Social Media is Strava, and I do know that if a run doesn’t appear in Strava then it doesn’t happen. So I guess it could be the same with social media, what ever that is?!?
I just say hi to people when I am out on the trail, and those that run with me know where we ran, what we saw, and how bad we looked at the end!

IRJ
IRJ
19 days ago

No one really cares about your run but yourself.

No Pic Trail runner
No Pic Trail runner
19 days ago

Also, what about how social media is a major contributor to ruining a lot of beautiful places because people will ruin or endanger the environment in order to get their perfect social media shot.

Zoe Hrom
Admin
19 days ago

Such a great point! Be sure to observe LNT Social Media ethics when you’re enjoying beautiful places! https://lnt.org/new-social-media-guidance/

Mandy Weilandt
19 days ago

As a frequent social media poster, I feel like Brian is shaking his finger and head at me like I should be ashamed for posting a picture from the finish line of something I worked very hard to achieve. I am not ashamed of my acomplishment….but somehow this article made me feel like I should be. I have been told many times that people enjoy seeing these posts and seeing the adventures I have been on. I want people to know that if I can do it, they can do it! I use social media to try to inspire others to have the courage to try something new and to let them know that no matter their skill level, speed, or experience level, they can do more than they think they can! Mirna has used social media to bring around change of the running communities’ views on what a runner looks like. She has broken down so many walls for all of us back of the packers and not super thin runners. She has given us hope and has inspired us. I find nothing she posts to be about pure vanity at all. Not sure why her pic has been used in this article but I am disappointed that it was.

Beep Beep Breen
Beep Beep Breen
19 days ago

Thank you Mandy, I support your response. When I began reading this article I was totally astounded? Not even sure if it’s appropriate to appropriate the Instagram posts of athletes to use in an article that is pretty much disparaging them. There is so much joy in running I have fun trying ti time silly salutes to on course photographers, am very proud of hard fought for battles that resulted in emotional and powerful finish images captured by devoted people that I am thankful for so I can reflect on these moments as you say that are the result of either a hard or obstacle ridden lead up and or tremendous race battle. We can’t support the idea of using our writing to eat our own? At the end of the article it became about what felt like a pious statement of being cooler or better so is this also a brag? Vanity? To say that because I post and have a smug smile which means I have just done cool things I am operating at a higher level than the rest? Our endurance community is diverse. People that have overcome depression, death of loved ones, lonely people that have found their run tribe, overcome eating disorders or obesity or even extreme self consciousness to participate. I say bring it on.. our sport needs all the media it can get anyway.

Cindy
Cindy
19 days ago

I like to fantasize that the best athletes (runners, climbers, surfers, etc.) out there are the ones we never hear about. They are simply doing it for themselves and couldn’t care less about letting anyone else know about it. Kind of like a ‘Caballo Blanco’ before he was ‘discovered’.

IRJ
IRJ
19 days ago

True, most of selfie types are mid to back pack. The socialites of recreational athletes.

Michelle Peacock
Michelle Peacock
19 days ago

Brian’s article really captures my view of all of this. I am 63 years old and started climbing in the Colorado Mountain Club in the 1970’s. The only record we had of our climbs, hikes and trail runs was the photo our buddy took with his/her camera and that photo is probably in an album somewhere. These are special times shared with those who climb/run/ski with you and just understand. I share the experience with close friends. The whole experience, the effort, the camaraderie just seems to be lost when everyone’s posting every photo, every trail… everything all over social media. People don’t seem to enjoy the moment of the experience. Can’t you just sit there, quiet and enjoy the sunrise at the top of a 14er? Or the sunset in a mountain meadow listening to the birds or the creek? Or the crunch of fall leaves under your shoes on a Fall trail run? Or the sparkle of the snow in the air on a bright cloudless winter day skiing? Why does it all have to be blasted all over the internet? I just don’t get it and probably never will.

Beep Beep Breen
Beep Beep Breen
19 days ago

oh boy, um… Um. I have a lot to say on this but need to um, put more thought into a decent mindful reply. I just cancelled my selfie stick order though LOL

IRJ
IRJ
19 days ago

Yep, one less junk to carry. Instead, stop to smell the flower, or take a closer shot of the flower. You will be more amazed than seeing yourself.

Kristin
Kristin
19 days ago

Don’t be afraid to celebrate. Your birthday, your trail run, your epic finish. Share away. It doesn’t make you a narcissist. Life is short, life is hard, bad things happen all the time. Celebrate and share your joy while you can.

Michelle
Michelle
19 days ago

Definitely – But why blast it out to social media? Send it to your friends in a personal text or a photo, enjoy a run with your friends, enjoy a climb with your friends, enjoy a race with your riedns. I just don’t get the need to post everything one does. That’s just what I don’t get….

Tam
Tam
19 days ago

I don’t get the need to rant about what other people are doing on social media either, so long as they’re not harming anyone. Doesn’t mean the ranters are wrong, though. Also, if any of my friends are reading this, don’t you dare start spamming me directly with your trail tales and pics. I prefer to view them at my leisure.

James
James
15 days ago

I am not a big social media user at all but I have never understood the hate for it. If you don’t like what someone is posting, just don’t follow them or block them from your feed! It’s not that difficult. I feel proud of and inspired when I see my friends and family accomplish something. Now when it’s fake or creating a false perception that’s a different story.

Steve
Steve
19 days ago

Totally narcissistic. If it’s not about “look at me, look at what I’ve done” or “look sponsors, I’m out with your name all over the place” – then what is it if it’s not narcissistic? I truly think social media has totally ruined society. Look at the bullying, the “look at me”, the shaming, etc. etc. Sure, social media has done some good by connecting long-gone schoolmates and have helped people in disasters (hurricanes, etc.) to re-connect and ask for help. But as a whole, social media has totally blown up society. I have not looked at any social media for about 8 months and I’m still alive! Try it sometime, it’s really beneficial to get back to your roots and care more about yourself rather than caring what others think about you and what you’re doing.

IRJ
IRJ
19 days ago

Spot on.

IRJ
IRJ
19 days ago

I’d rather see scenaries than people. People taking shots at themselves are still narcissistic. And to be honest, no one cares about how they look: race or not, summit or canyon. Please grow out of it.

Bob Irving
Bob Irving
19 days ago

lamest article ever. I guess it time to drop this magazine, The main reason I run is to not waste time on social media. No one wants to know how awesome your workout was. If your not enjoying it just for how it makes you feel why bother.

Rob Hartman
Rob Hartman
18 days ago

Is this National Shame Month in the trail-running world?! Between this article and the article complaining about trail-mates…YIKES! I love trail running for the positivity and joy it typically brings everyone who participates–whether they are in the back of the pack or winning 100-milers. Ummm….let’s get back to that?!

Mary
Mary
18 days ago

Love this article. I deleted my Instagram four years ago because I realized it brought out this horrible narcissistic side of me. I wanted to do things because I wanted to- not “for the gram.” Since then, I’ve caught myself more than once wishing I had social media so everyone I went to high school with and haven’t seen in ten years would know I am an ultra-runner and how amazing I am. I recently created a new Instagram account and already remember why I deleted it to begin with—it’s just a cesspool of junk. It’s already been deactivated. While I do miss out on the occasional route beta, or seeing some content that inspires me to get out, I would say the pros of not having Instagram outweigh the cons. The worst are sponsored runners whose pages seem to be endless photos of themselves. I know of a certain runner in the Boulder area who has been known to post a photo or two of himself running shirtless. I always wanted to comment and ask who he gets to take these pictures. In any event, now that I don’t have Instagram, I have another app to bring out my narcissistic, social-media hungry side: STRAVA! Cause who needs Instagram when you can see where your friends ran, how fast they ran, how beautiful their run was, and who they ran with…..wait, what do you mean all my friends ran together last night and didn’t invite me….?!

 
 

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