Confessions Of An Age-Grouper: #Riveting

The ways social media—and the ubiquitous hashtag—can actually be useful to the triathlete.

The ways social media—and the ubiquitous hashtag—can actually be useful to the triathlete.

Whether posting, pinning, Instagramming, Snapchatting or blogging, many of us share a lot about our lives on social media. Some people bash Facebook and other forms of social media banter. They accuse users of being all-consumed. And they’re right—social media is darn addictive. A Facebook post I saw this morning summed it up: “We all need to get offline and outside more”—said the dude sitting at his computer, posting a status update.

Granted, some people are garrulous over-posters—and athletes are often the worst offenders. As much as we love to get out and get active, we also spend an awful lot of time online. Maybe we’re so wiped out from training that the only energy we can muster goes toward tapping the keyboard. Or maybe we truly believe that people want to know the wattage on our power meters. Heck, some athletes post every workout, heart rate fluctuation, recovery meal and race result. Why? Because that sort of information is #riveting. #sarcasm

Which brings me to the subject of hashtags. Forget their intended purpose (to group and track trending topics)—hashtags are one of the clearest communication tools on the planet, a hall-pass platform for brutal honesty, feel-good fluff and biting wit (not to mention bad grammar). But enough about hashtags; let’s examine the ways in which social media can serve an athlete well, rather than being a total #wasteoftime.

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It’s a rich resource. You can use social media for everything from scheduling to S.O.S. calls. It’s easy to plan a training date, buy or sell triathlon equipment or seek help when stranded by a mechanical mess. And it’s a great way to network about shared endurance sports experiences. Want to know whether the saddle you switched to causes anyone else to go numb? It’s OK to ask such questions online; Facebook skillfully stretches the boundaries of #TMI.

It’s a marketing mecca. Whether you’re a pro or an age-group brand ambassador, social media is your best bet for supporting the companies that support you. And if fundraising is your fancy, online friends and followers are key to your success. Do you think this year’s Men Of Triathlon charity calendar would have been such a hit without social media? Sure, a handful would have sold via word of mouth, but posting preview photos of pro Chris Legh fly-fishing in a Speedo and Luke McKenzie barbecuing in the near-buff helped the guys involved raise more than $10,000 for the Movember Foundation.

It’s warm and fuzzy. There’s a time and place for feel-good moments—namely when you’re flat-out tired from training and in need of some simple entertainment. Enter social media’s viral videos. Remember “How Animals Eat Their Food” or the “T-Rex Optical Illusion”? Trust me, there’s no better way to tune out after a tough day than to ponder the question, “What Does the Fox Say?”

It paints a picture. I have an old high school friend, and from what I can tell on Facebook he has a pretty fantastic life—but he’s enamored with mine. Nearly every post I make gets a comment from Bruce: #wannabeholly. Obviously this is a good-hearted jest between us, but it highlights a truth about social media: Presentation is everything. My life’s pretty good a lot of the time, but it’s not entirely fabulous* (*as seen on Facebook). Did your long run royally suck? Has your motivation gone missing? People only know these things if you tell them. I’m not suggesting you falsify your life or your fitness level, but feel free to filter it as you wish. The picture you paint is entirely up to you. And if you paint it with positivity, who knows? Perhaps your reality will soon catch up to your virtual perfect world—the one in which you are #winning.

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It reports, real-time. Everyone knows the best way to follow an athlete racing these days is via his or her Twitter feed, as reported by a ghost-tweeting friend or spouse. Of course, with advances in technology on the fast track, I’m hoping it won’t be long before an athlete’s brain can be directly linked to his or her Twitter account. Wouldn’t it be cool to know exactly what that little voice inside the head says, the transcript laid out in stream-of-consciousness hashtag style? I imagine it might go something like this:

#firedup #heregoesnothing #longandstrong #streamline #quitpullingonmyfeetyoufreak #kickandbreathe #longandstrong #kickandbreathe #biketime #omgthatsaddlesore #ignorethepain #focus #breathe #cadencecounts #strongandsteady #killthehill #quadsonfire #finghurts #downwego #wheeeee #dotheseshortsmakemelookfat #focus #strongandsteady #cadencecounts #runtime #nobigdeal #breathe #pace #quickfeet #onetwothree #onetwothree #thisisawesome #ichosethis #focus #pace #ouch #finghurts #thisisawful #ipaidforthis #focus #ignorethepain #onetwothree #breathe #breathe #cantbreathe #focus #mightpuke #puking #neveragain #focus #nomoreracing #breathe #howmuchfarther #swearthatwasamile #watchisbroken #focus #quietmind #breathe #whatwasithinking #iminsane #wheresthefinish #focus #breathe #focus #finally #iseeit #finished #mightpuke #puking #wheresmybeer #dotheseshortsmakemelookfat

So if you’re a social media naysayer you might want to rethink your revulsion. Get on board and get online. Because that would make for some cool race coverage. #riveting, in fact.

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