“I used to hate training,” says Dakota Jones, sipping a fair-trade coffee in the shade of a Boulder, Colorado coffeehouse and crossing his skinny-jean-clad legs, “and part of me still does. But over the past few years I have developed a host of ways in which I can leverage my training into a comprehensive projection of superiority over everyone around me. Sometimes people ask me, ‘Dakota, do you really like to run so much?’ And I always tell them the same thing: I ran 150 miles this week and did five hours of ab workouts and this pizza is gluten free, so what are you doing to make the planet a better place to live? People cower before my self-assured status as an avante-garde lifestyle athlete, and I encourage this with an all-encompassing arrogance.”
The trick to being better than everyone else, explains Jones, “is to believe you’re better than everyone else. Sure, deep down I may have a foundational complex of crippling insecurities, but I make a point to cover that over like hoarfrost in a continental snowpack with layers of self-assurance, curated pretentiousness, and unconcealed contempt.” In other words, you need to create a whole way of life around the fact that you exercise and eat well. But saying it like that makes it sounds simple, and the last thing you want to do is give the impression that being you is simple. “You must project a dazzling aura of busy-ness and constant activity,” says Jones.
The secret is to keep track meticulously and publicly of everything you do that furthers your carefully crafted image. (And conversely, you should never, under any circumstances, tell people about the things you do that don’t further this image.) For Jones, that means posting the explicit details of every run, bike, hike, and ab workout onto Strava, preferably with technical descriptions that utilize lots of jargon. “Incorporated a fluctual system of periodized specificity today,” reads one of Jones’s more popular posts. Only by letting everyone know how much you do can they know how much better you are than them.
This extends beyond the realm of training too. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool for presenting yourself to strangers as everything you wish you actually were, and Jones makes a point to incorporate all aspects of his life into his public image. He frequently posts pictures of food with hashtags such as #glutenfree, #vegan, and #plantbased. He also is good about showing the world that he uses the products his increasingly random sponsors give him. “Here I am trying out the new @RollerX Ice Roller, which utilizes real engineering to make tight packages of rounded ice cubes to roll out on after a run! #IceRoll #GetSwoll #BoulderLife” reads a recent post. Your product is shame, which you “incept” into peoples’ psyches through a passive-aggressive superiority. If done right, you never have to actually explain to people that you are better than them. They’ll just seem to know.
The obvious drawback is that this strategy requires real training. You have to actually do the runs and rides in order to post them on Strava. But like Jones, you can accomplish this by stoking the fire of a grimacing spite that burns within you every time you see someone being authentic. As for the rest of the lifestyle stuff, that can be fabricated in a host of ways; “your only limit is your imagination,” says Jones, looking up from writing calligraphy in a Moleskine notebook. With a little effort and forethought, you can be impressing people without merit in only a few weeks!
But there will be an inevitable backlash, and you must be prepared to meet it with ruthless force. Mountain sports are predicated on a system of values like simplicity, self-reliance, and worldly compassion, which is a problem you’re going to have to contend with if you want to do social media right. You see, some people might think you are “inauthentic” for posting everything you do online. They may accuse you of “being in it for the money” or even of being “a total douchebag.” These charges will be brought against you by people who disagree with you, and if you take the time to listen to what they say, you might find that their claims have some validity. This will be a serious liability to your self-esteem, so rather than listening, you must instead interrupt them and combat their logical assertions with attacks upon their character. It’s what politicians do, and it works every time.
If, however, this is not enough; if, somehow, people still accuse you of existing entirely online and not having any more profound insights than repetitive cultural tropes, you must turn the argument back upon itself. “The first thing you’ll want to do,” explains Jones, tapping his quill against his temple, “is adopt a quirky attribute that is all your own.” For Jones, that means always referring to himself in the third person. “People don’t expect it, you see,” he continues, “when Dakota says things like ‘Dakota’s run sure was cool today’, they look at him confused, and that’s just fine. There’s no such thing as bad attention.”
Following this, you will be ready to take the final step: you must adopt an ironical attitude that subverts these concerns by acknowledging them. “Your next move,” explains Jones, a fire in his eyes, “is to start posting about how much you post. Or maybe make a series of short films in which you show yourself creating social-media posts. This will fly in the face of expectation and make people really think, you know?” Equally effective is writing a sardonic article in which you over-characterize yourself as possessing the worst of the attributes you are demonizing. If done well, nobody can possibly believe that you actually are like that, because if you know you’re like this, how could you continue to be like this?
But if that’s not enough, you can finish the article with a meta description of the act of writing the article itself. “By making an abstraction of the abstraction,” continues Jones, just totally winging it now, “you relativize the opposition until you are competing with yourself.” In this way, you become your own worst critic, and that gives you the power to moderate the type and intensity of criticism that comes your way. In this way you’ll neutralize your critics while simultaneously elevating your apparent wisdom. “People dig that shit,” says Jones, briefly dipping into rap colloquialisms. “Better yet, telling stories about telling stories can be a way of covering up for a lack of real ideas with a veneer of creativity. That veneer is your home. It’s where you live. Find that veneer and hold tight.”
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- On a more serious note, what do you think about the current state of social media in trail and ultrarunning?
- What elements of our social-media culture are good, fun, and beneficial to our community? And what elements of our social-media culture could we do without, e.g. TikTok likes and followers for our kids?
Kindly keep this discussion civil and general. There’s also no need to call out specific individuals or posts by individuals, good or bad. Thank you!