Well, of course it’s not. Not really. Or, maybe just a bit.
It would appear as dumb or superficial to think that Strava is just another Facebook, targeted at a different audience. Especially since, for example, “posting” something to your Strava profile requires that some physical activity has been performed (be it running, swimming, walking, cycling, etc.). This makes it more of a social network for sports enthusiasts, which is really cool.
Now, being me, I’m constantly undergoing some sort of self-evaluation and I am trying to analyze my own behavior as best as I can. This led me aboard an intriguing train of thought that I’ll try to detail next.
Facebook generally serves as a platform for satisfying very deep needs in regards to social interaction and validation. Since interaction is merely virtual, only validations through “Likes” remain. It is also an ideal way to fill up voids within yourself and your life. The thin line between sharing and desperately bragging is ever more blurry nowadays, and every time we feel the urge to post a photo of an intimate moment (dinner with our children, celebrating an anniversary with our spouse at a nice resort, being on vacation at a popular spot and so on) we must ask ourselves:
- “Why do I need to post something about this wonderful thing I am living right now?”
- “Why do I need others to know exactly what my kid drew for my birthday?”
- “Is it vital to take a carefully crafted photo of us as a couple living an ideal and romantic life and sharing it with the world? Are we missing something that could be covered by Likes from our friends and relatives?”
If sharing photos of landscapes or landmarks may be perfectly understandable (as a way to popularize them or share some of that beauty with others), publicly sharing photos of private and personal moments is intriguing. And I believe there is a true fear in tackling this deep subject and finding out what are we trying to compensate by engaging in such weird and paradoxical behaviors. Because yes, it is a paradox. Think of all the people yelling about online privacy issues while they voluntarily share their own private moments and data.
So, can Strava also fill up a void? Could a similar urge lie beyond simply sharing sport activities and using the platform as an advanced performance evaluation tool (for example, observing your progress on a 10 kilometer run over time is quite interesting and useful, especially when combined with heart rate analysis)? Is it possible that we sometimes want to show others that we’re still alive and that we still matter? “Look, I’m here! I can still run a half-marathon!”. Do we always engage in tracked physical activities for our own sake, or for getting online feedback?
Is it possible for Strava to make you feel bad about yourself, just like Facebook might when you look at other people’s “tidy, ideal, happy lives”? Could one feel bad for gaining three kilos in body weight due to constraints on available leisure time (because of child care or professional duties, for example) while other people in the Strava feed keep cycling 80+ kilometers a day or constantly run 10 kilometers three times a week? Would a woman that just gave birth develop depression while looking at activities posted by her friends (things she also enjoyed doing just before deciding to have a child), feeling that her life might be over and that she will never be able to get back in shape and enjoying the luxury of physical activity and self-care? Especially if those Strava entries have some photos attached to them.
Our life is ours alone. Our private moments are unique. By constantly thinking about immediately sharing them with the world and getting anxious about the positive feedback we will receive on a social media site, we are truly missing out. But we do so on our own existence, by voluntarily devaluing it, bit by bit, photo by photo, share by share.
What happened to storytelling?