It didn’t happen if you didn’t post it on social media, right? At the moment, social media is the platform for communication, advertising, bragging, documenting, inspiring, and the list goes on. There are many perks to posting about your daily activities, epic adventures, and what you are eating (kidding about that last one!), but these posts also serve as haunting comparisons if you let them.
As a fan of social media and an avid ‘poster’ from my personal and work accounts, I’m fairly careful and very conscious of what I publish. I always try to keep a positive tone and present a motivating message. Though my intentions are good, it might not be received that way. Since we are all different and have our own interpretations of what things mean, social media can serve as everything from a motivator to get us out the door to a digital vessel reminding you that your efforts aren’t epic enough.
There are definitely times I’ve compared my own training to the words, photos, and videos posted by friends. In these times, I have found myself wondering if I was doing the right training—or enough training—and losing faith in what I assumed were my own hard efforts. It can be pretty depressing, to be honest. It takes a little bit of time, but I usually snap out of it and realize that it is me who is creating the negative energy, which does nothing for me (or for anyone else). Instead I should use those materials as a motivator and get excited for my next run.
Pam and Liza, have either of you run into issues with social media?
There was a period in 2014 and 2015 where I was suffering from undiagnosed asthma that kept me from running much. During this time, there were days where awesome social-media posts would actually make me kind of bitter. They were a constant reminder that I wasn’t able to do the things I loved and that I was relegated to voyeuristic enjoyment of running. All of a sudden and because of my health problems, a fear of missing out transformed into actually missing out, and I didn’t like being on the sidelines. Posts about great race performances would bring out the irrational and childish feeling of, “It’s not fair!” I found myself wondering why was I struggling so much while everyone else was doing so well and making it look so easy?
For the most part, I enjoy seeing other people’s adventure photos. They remind me about why I love running and give me a glimpse of more beautiful places than I could possibly see in a normal day (or month!). But I admit, sometimes posts raise pangs of jealousy: It sucks that I am stuck at work when so many other people are out having great adventure. I wish I got a paid trip to such an awesome place. Most of the time, I can shrug these off by reminding myself that I still get to do some pretty awesome things. I try to think of my day job as my ‘Big Sponsor’ that lets me pay for race travel and that my Big Sponsor has allowed me to race in Greece, Spain, California, Georgia, and soon Ireland all in a nine-month window. This helps me keep perspective that my Big Sponsor is pretty cool, too. (Plus it has health insurance and a retirement plan!)
As for actual training, I know there was a little shock for me when I first started using Strava. I’d go out for what I thought was a great run and then come back to see that Sabrina Little ran the same distance as me only a minute per mile faster. And Kaci Lickteig not only ran a minute per mile faster but she did five miles more! It’d be a little deflating! But I’ve been running long enough to know that one size does not fit all when it comes to training and I have enough confidence in what I am doing that I have never changed my training or tried to emulate someone else’s workout because of Strava and feeling like I need to keep up.
I take pretty regular breaks from Facebook and Instagram. That much success and happiness is strangely uninspiring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy when I see that wonderful people are doing wonderful things. When Katie Grossman posts something like this:
I think, Woo hoo! Katie! And I am quite full of firgun. Firgun, a Hebrew word, is defined “vicarious and ungrudging joy for someone else.” (If you’re looking for the opposite of the German word schadenfreude, firgun’s what you’re looking for.)
It was total #firgun when I saw this from my friend Brian Ricketts, who’s on his annual summer pilgrimage out West.
Same with a race post like this from my friend, Sarah Grey:
But the more time I spend looking at people’s adventures and successes, the more I start to compare myself to them. And I always come up short. So my joy for them is tempered with feelings of inadequacy.
Why didn’t I figure out a way to get to the mountains this summer? Why aren’t I racing more?
Why the heck aren’t I taking the kids camping more? (Besides that it’s 104 Fahrenheit with the heat index.)
To be clear, I’m not jealous. My first thought with Pam’s post was, Yeah! Pam, Mac, and kids! But my second was, I’m not as good a mom as Pam is.
That’s when I take social-media break, when the firgun is gone, and I feel inadequate and small.
Then I turn to Twitter for affirmation and inspiration. (Definitely kidding.) It usually takes a good week away from social media to free myself from the comparison trap.
What brings me back eventually is the virtual running community. As a work-at-home mom with young kids, I don’t get to hang out or run with friends all that much. Social media helps to keep me feeling connected and makes me feel part of a running group. And I really value that.
My tentmates from the 2015 Marathon des Sables and I have kept a group conversation open on Facebook for over two years now. I love it.
And when I posted this picture of a tarantula from an otherwise dull, solo run around my neighborhood, the responses lifted my spirits for the rest of the day.
(Those AH AH AHs are the Sesame Street Count’s laugh, not me freaking out.)
I also appreciate social media for the heads up to people’s blogs, podcasts, and video interviews. Those inspire. Maybe that’s because the more a person shares of themselves, the harder it is to think of them in broad categories. The more I recognize the differences between myself and someone else, the harder it is to compare myself to them, which clears the way for firgun. (Yes, if I get a tattoo, that’s what I’m going with.)
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- How does social media help you, and how do you see it benefitting our trail and ultrarunning community?
- What problems do you personally encounter with social media?
- What is your right recipe of social-media volume? That is, how much is enough to improve your life without messing negatively with your perspective?