Don’t Believe Everything You See on Instagram

Disclaimer: I love social media. I once coordinated the volunteer response to a hurricane on social media and continue to do research on the role of social media in public health promotion. I benefit from social media; my relationships with Skechers and Nuun and with countless other companies who send me free things to review or comp my race entries are closely tied to my social media presence.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I am also deeply concerned about the way that social media is changing the way we run. Is is possible to go for a run without posting a picture of your Garmin? Is it possible to eat a recovery meal without first snapping it in pretty light? How many shots does it take to get a good daily run shot and WHO THE HELL IS TAKING ALL YOUR RUNNING PHOTOS?!?

Much of this has come up for me over the past few months as I continue to figure out how to balance the PR and training components of my running. I am deeply grateful to my sponsors and want to represent them in a good light and demonstrate how their support makes it easier for me to meet my training goals. That said, I also don’t have time to set up a photo shoot after every run nor do I have someone around to take a photo of every workout or run. All of this came to a head a few weeks ago when I was down in our gym doing legs after a workout. I wanted to get a picture after a good workout and was busily trying to set up a timer app on my phone to capture me in the middle of a single leg squat. After 15 minutes of trying to get a shot with decent lighting, however, I was out of time both for squats or to post a picture and as I was showering started to reflect on the sheer ridiculousness of compromising both my social media presence and training to get a good workout shot.

My bigger concern, however, is around the authenticity of content on social media as it pertains to running. No one, and I repeat no one, has good runs every day. Perhaps every run has moments of good but the reality is that if you run regularly, most of those runs are average and run of the mill. And that’s okay. No single workout or run makes a training cycle. It’s the stacking of average run on average run that leads to breakthrough performances and personal records. So why the pressure to talk about how amazing every run was or how fast you were on every repetition? Why the cultivation of the myth that running and training should always be glamorous and photo ready? Some of my biggest breakthrough workouts are the ones where I miss my paces but stick it out anyway or the ones where I drench through my mismatching clothes. Where’s the rush to post those moments?

Part of the story but not the whole story.

Part of the story but not the whole story.

In general, I think I do a good job of being real on this blog. In fact, I think I am a little too rough on myself which is something I noticed when reading through race reports recently. On Instagram, however, I fall into the trap of cultivating my content. Some of this is unconscious; if I don’t have time to post a picture, I don’t. Some of it, however, is 100% intentional. When Will and I have time to run together, I regularly ask him to take pictures of apparel and shoes while I’m running and we do way more than 1 take. As I was flipping through my phone photos this week while planning out this week’s content, I busted myself (thus the impetus for this post) for taking pictures of all the amazing veggie concoctions I’d enjoyed all week. The issue was not that I took pictures of pretty summer vegetables, it was that if I posted just those, it would create the image that I eat perfectly healthy meals and erase the reality that one of those nights of a bright salad was only because we’d opted to eat chips and salsa for the rest of our dinner. It erased the reality of Friday where we had tons of cookies leftover from a dinner party and I literally ate only cookies for breakfast and dinner. Why was THAT not on my camera to share?

Going forward, my personal plan is to be more mindful of what I’m choosing to put on my social media accounts and be less self-conscious about sharing the real moments while taking everyone else’s content with a grain of salt. Hair a tangled mess and face blotchy from working hard on the track? Resist the urge to filter the sh*t out of it. Posting a picture of a great, healthy meal? Own up to cookie breakfasts and lunches or to the days when I eat zero vegetables.

Would you engage with a social media account that was more…average? How do you decide what to post on social media? 

4 thoughts on “Don’t Believe Everything You See on Instagram

  1. Ryan

    I know I only post the extremes on Facebook. A routine mid-week 5 miler at an 8:30 pace never gets mentioned. The times I get in a fast double digit mid-week run or when everything sucks (weather, pace, desperate sprints to a bathroom) are the ones that get posted. I don’t think I am alone in doing that, which collectively can make it seem like “everyone” is always having awesome runs (with the occaisional disaster) based on Facebook and Instagram.
    For trying to catch something like a single leg squat, would it be easier to try to video it then take a screen shot of the video?

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      I think social media is in some ways set up for extremes; after all, most people aren’t inclined to share the mundane. I love the idea about using video to try to capture a good shot. Will have to try that one of these days.

      Reply
  2. foxrunsfast

    Oh thank you thank you for writing this! I am working with two friends to design a new website and (slowly) get into coaching a few more athletes. (I coach now, but only through word of mouth) Anyway, I have MAJOR anxiety about all of the social media platforms that my marketing-savvy friends are encouraging me to do. Twitter! Instagram! Facebook! Different content on each! I just enjoy EXPERIENCING the running/eating/post-run indulgence so much and get anxious about the extra time it will take to take photos of everything and post. (and hello, I have a hard enough time waiting for the food to cool off before I scarf it down – just don’t see myself setting up the perfect lighting, placemats, etc. to get the shot and THEN eating. I am impatient like that. ) And who wants to see that I basically eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day? And I agree – who is taking photos of all the people running?!?? It would take me about 50+ takes to get one where both of my feet are off the ground – I always look like I’m walking. 🙂 🙂 Long winded comment but you get what I’m saying. I feel your pain! 🙂 I have decided that I’m only going to post on occasion on each platform and only what I WANT to post – most likely that will not be as carefully curated as most. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Runner Under Pressure Post author

      I’m so excited to see your new website! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels like keeping up with the social media Joneses isn’t a possibility. After all, I am a runner first and a blogger about 15th.

      Reply

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