The one where Chicory asks Pumpkin why other people’s social media posts about their crazy training shenanigans bother her.
Lately I’ve found myself doing something that I’m a little embarrassed to admit. There are runners on Instagram that I started following for positive reasons, but then later realize I’m only following them because it’s like watching a car crash.
Either they seem to race hard really often, or train excessively hard, or announce race goals that don’t seem to align with their current fitness. And it’s not that I want them to fail … but there’s a perverse sense of relief when they do. Just today I found myself googling a race someone ran because she posted her place but not her time.
Much like how we publish our logs on Salty Running, I like following runners on Instagram for a peek into their training. Often, there’s a bit of motivation from seeing other people out working hard — the old adage that there’s someone else out training when you’re resting.
And, okay, I’ll admit I use social media to keep tabs on my rivals. I have no hesitation about messaging someone to see if she’s running a race I’m looking at. I’ve got Athlinks saved as a bookmark. But that I see as smart racing strategy. I like to know if there will be women to run with, and to race against.
But this Instagram thing? It’s different. I don’t know these people. Most of them don’t even live in the same city, or even state.
So, Pumpkin, why does it bother me so much when I see these strangers doing things in their training that seem like terrible ideas? And why do I feel compelled to keep following their training?
I’m not going to lie — I’m a social media junkie. It can be so much fun to follow along with our friends’ Instagram Stories, Strava data, and creative Snap Stories. I love to hear about PR races and I always lend a word of encouragement when somebody has a tough run. Social media can offer such a great platform for runners to bond with one another over a shared love of the sport. All the good feels, right?
But there is a darker side of social media and runners — one that can prompt feelings of smug superiority or jealousy. When our moods are determined based on somebody else’s actions or performance, then it’s not such a great thing.
As humans, I think it’s in our nature to want to watch a train wreck. But in the end, do we have warm, fuzzy feelings? Or do we feel temporarily good, only to feel ashamed later?
When I find myself over-invested in the training and racing practices of others, then it draws attention away from my own practices. When I am reflecting about a rival who may be racing too much or about some Instagram stranger who seems to be training poorly, am I taking time away from my own self-reflection? Does the stalking give me a competitive edge or is it distracting me from opportunities to build my mental strength?
The comparison game is so dangerous and any benefit you feel from it is fleeting. While one minute you may feel awesome because your training cycle is so much stronger than that Instagram runner, that feeling can change in an instant when you come across another person who you perceive to be faster than you. Suddenly, you’re left feeling inadequate and questioning your own training.
Your time spent on social media is better spent cheering on friends and offering them support! I know I am so much happier when I am running my own race.
Do you find yourself staring at social media “train wrecks” or sizing up rivals? How do you keep a healthy attitude about social media?