It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post. There are a lot of reasons for this – the holidays came up, my travel schedule this year has been more intense than in prior years, I’ve chosen to spend time goofing off, etc. But the main reason I’ve not written is that after the 2012 NWM, I became disenchanted with the running community. To be specific, the online running community. To be even more specific, the online running groups on Facebook.
The social aspect – online or in real life – has never been part of why I run. So it’s been frustrating that I let my disenchantment with these online running groups affect my running.
In these past few months, I’ve tried to overcome my disenchantment with my fellow runners. For me, part of overcoming any feeling is figuring out why. Why was I disenchanted with my fellow runners as a result of running groups on Facebook?
I could tell you specific reasons and even share screenshots with you. But that wasn’t the why that I needed to understand. The why that I needed to understand went deeper. Why was I letting these Facebook running groups bother me so? Even after I left the groups and deleted the chats?
For a long time, I couldn’t answer that question. But on a recent trip, I read a brief bit in Hemispheres, the inflight publication of United Airlines, that said we remember things that we see in social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) better and longer than things we see in any other medium. They aren’t quite sure why. They speculate it’s because of the chatty, gossipy nature of social media.
Somehow, after reading that handful of paragraphs, I felt validated for letting those Facebook running groups bother me. And although I’m not ready to engage with those groups again, I am ready to put those bad episodes behind me. I’ve achieved closure as a result of that magazine blurb and plan to get back in the habit of posting regularly.
Have you ever simmered, seethed, and steamed over a Facebook post or a Tweet? Share in the comments below!
To an outsider looking in, the running community seems like a tight-knit yet welcoming, supportive, encouraging, motivational group.
And for the most part, that is true.
However, if you hang out in the community long enough – and by “hang out” I mean read running magazines, read running blogs, join a running group on Facebook, follow runners on Twitter, and so on – you’ll find that the there are members of the community who aren’t quite as supportive, who aren’t quite as encouraging, who aren’t quite as motivational as you’d think at first glance. There are members of the running community who are smug, self-righteous, and sanctimonious. They are the ones who have sharp elbows.
Right now you’re thinking, “The same is true for any group, for any community!” That’s true, I agree. Every group or community has members that don’t always show the group or community in its best light.
It could just be that I’ve been overly sensitive these past couple of months as my running hasn’t been quite where I want it to be or where it needs to be.
I was browsing around on Facebook one day and ran across Runner’s World magazine Facebook page. The page had a link to a Runner’s World blog of motivational poster #31. The poster had a picture of an obviously overweight man sitting on a couch with a remote in his hand and he was lit by what we are to assume was the television. The poster was captioned, “Can’t find 30 minutes a day to exercise? Look harder.”
The poster in itself, I had no problems with. What did strike a nerve, however, were the comments on the Facebook post and the blog comments. A majority of them just struck me as sanctimonious and self-righteous. There were posts from people who said they never watched television and couldn’t understand people who did. I understand not watching television – after my trip to Costa Rica a few years ago, I didn’t watch television for nearly six months.
But to say that you cannot understand people who do watch television? To smugly announce all the things that keep you so busy during the day that you don’t have time to watch television? To self-righteously say that the people who do watch television deserve all the health problems they end up with? To snicker at people who aren’t quite as fit and trim and healthy as you are? I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the judgmental tone that some of the comments took.
I watch television. I watch up to two hours each weeknight. Sometimes three. More on the weekends when there’s baseball, football, or tennis being broadcast. Am I staring at the television the entire time? No, I’m usually going through my mail, flipping through a magazine, working on a crossword puzzle, writing in my journal, chatting with my parents during commercial break. Would I use those two or three hours to run? Not likely because I generally run in the morning. Would those other runners sneer at me because of that? Probably.
We shouldn’t be sneering at overweight people who would rather watch television than exercise for 30 minutes. We should be trying to help them, trying to support them, trying to motivate them. We shouldn’t be thinking that we are better than they are – for all we know, they may bring more worth to the world in their daily lives than we do with all our running miles, running shorts, and running shoes. We shouldn’t be deriding people whose time management skills aren’t as good as ours. We should be finding ways to encourage them and work with them to change or improve their habits.
Runners should support people, not tear them down. Runners should encourage people to share their healthy lifestyle, not mock them. Runners should share their love for running, not make snide comments about the sedentary.
Since the time I happened across that Facebook posting and that blog post – and some other blog posts and comments in a Facebook running group that I’m part of – it’s been hard to think of runners in a positive way. It’s okay because I think those self-righteous, sanctimonious, and smug people probably wouldn’t call me a runner. They’d probably snidely call me a jogger.
That doesn’t bother me – I’ll label myself, thank you very much. In the meantime, I’m doing all I can to avoid runners with sharp elbows – in real life and in the digital world. I hope you do, too.