|Do we need people to post pointless motivational photo quotes?|
We all use social media too much. We know it, but we're addicted. We need to know what loose acquaintances and strangers are up to and talking to people in person is for old people. So Trail Runner Magazine decided to add to this with monthly topics for bloggers to discuss. Ironically this month's topic is whether social media is good or bad for trail running, so here are my additions to the debate.
To a lesser extent than road runners, trail runners still post frequently on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other social media platforms I don't really know about. Similarly, many now share the details of every run on sites like Strava, GarminConnect etc. So is that a harmless outlet for vanity, a mutually motivating revolution or something else? I'll split it into the sites dedicated to exercise and those that are use for more conventional sharing for runners and non-runners alike.
Non-running focused sites
Some of us over-share and tell the world about every minute detail of our lives. Luckily for the rest of us, if we're not interested we don't have to read about it or follow those people. Or if we want to we can, hence I can't see a whole lot of harm in it from the perspective of the sport...unless we spend so much time on our laptops, tablets and phones that there's no time for actual running. It's as simple as that from my perspective.
It can even have some positive effects when people declare their intentions to the world, such as aiming to do their first [insert race distance here] race.It's more likely that these people will keep on track and achieve their goals due to not wanting to look like a quitter in front of running and non-running friends.
I always found it odd when other runners would post exact details of their training and runs either on blogs or via sites that post this data to other sites like Facebook. Why should I care what training someone else does?In many ways this can be like a big swinging dick contest with runners trying to out-do each other with more miles, harder work-outs or other factors to show off their general amazingness. It can drive new runners to trails to assume that mega mileage is required to even finish long trail races, which just isn't the case and I strongly focus on quality, not quantity of miles for my online coaching clients.
Yet it's up to us whether or not to read or follow that information and it can give an insight into how to train for a particular race. Race reports can do exactly the same by imparting really helpful information to others if well-written and not too focused on the individual's experience instead of what the course and event is like.
The internet is full of useless or inaccurate information, but it also includes stuff about virtually anything you want to research. It's up to us to selectively filter out the bits we don't want or need. For trail running there's now a host of everything we could want to know about races, routes and individual runners. Communication can be faster and more detailed than ever before, like when a race announces last minute course changes on its Facebook page.
I love reading up about races I'm planning on running, whether that's up-to-date info via Tweets or Facebook postings or even blog posts from past competitors. Need to know what the course profile is really like? Just look up any number of blogs to find out graphs, descriptions and often more than the actual event website can tell you.
|This is the sort of thing a blog can help convey to others|
Then there's the race day coverage that was never possible before. irunfar has been the pioneer in this field by using simple Tweets to let us feel like we're at the race itself. In fact, we find out more from those Tweets than if we were at the event in person (trust me, I've found that out when at an aid station and constantly checking my phone to see who's likely to come through next). This has been a significant improvement on race results that can take days or weeks to be posted, albeit it mainly covers the sharp end of the field.
Sites like Strava that let runners share every run they do have the effect of creating more data but there are gems sparkling in the seas of numbers. If you want to see how a top runner, someone at your level or anyone at all does their training, you now can. It allows us to find new routes either close to home or when traveling and we can even get the competitive juices flowing by doing mini races on particular sections of routes since Strava is designed to set up these rivalries. I like it and it can turn a monotonous route into a whole new challenge.
I like social media and the numbers, photos and everything else it allows us to share. Cutting out the noise and finding the useful parts is generally easy, plus it helps to foster competition and drive us all to improve, in whatever way we choose to measure our goals, whether that's speed or something else.
The main area that I think can be negative is when the blogs or forums focus on name calling, insulting or general trolling. But as with everything else on the internet we can choose to ignore it and just benefit from the best information - we should all be internet-savvy enough by now to know the difference.