Monday, April 3, 2017

Instagram Makes Me Feel Bad

I need to preface this by saying that nothing can make you feel bad unless you let it, and I know that, but this was my honest reaction to what I saw on Instagram recently.

I'm very late to the Instagram game - while I've had an account for a year now, I only recently realized that you could scroll through posts that were recommended for you, based on what you post and like.  I was doing just that last weekend, and I kept seeing runners.  Runners who posted pictures of themselves with a set of stats for their run - stats that were crazy fast.  Runners who posted selfies showing impossibly long strides.  Runners who were all very lean and muscular, with no body fat and no jiggle - pretty much what an elite runner looks like, only these were just regular, non-famous runners.

I'm a runner.  Just a runner, nothing special.  I ran my first mile when I was 46 years old.  I'm coming up on 54 in a few months and am still running, which is a small miracle when I look back on all the things I've quit over the years.  I'm not a runner who wins my age group in races; I'm not a runner who has new personal records all the time...pretty much all of my fastest times (which weren't all THAT fast) were in 2010.  I run intervals more often than not; doing this has worked out well for me with not getting injured and also for making it through a long run.

Logically, I know there are more runners who are like me versus what I see on Instagram.  I am closer to the norm - not super fast, not super thin, not anything more than average - but still, sometimes it's hard to not compare myself to others.  I'm usually pretty good about not playing the comparison game, but Instagram sucked me in pretty good with that, and I'm irritated at myself for letting it happen.

There's a reason why I rarely post my race stats on my recaps anymore: mostly, because I don't care about them, but also, I don't want anyone to compare where they are in their running journey to where I am in mine.  I mean, if you want to feel better about yourself by comparing your pace to mine, then fine, go ahead with that...but in the end, it doesn't matter if I finish a race or run a particular distance faster or slower than you. 

And while I still dutifully log each and every run in my Runner's World Training Journal, I don't pay attention to my pace or time - mostly I'm noting the distance and the weather conditions.  Which is why I had to laugh last week when I was writing down my stats for the Texas 10 Series 5 miler race...you see, it wasn't until I wrote down the finish time and pace that I realized I didn't note those numbers at all during the race, nor did I register our time when we crossed the finish line!  I was running with my friends, I was having a good time, and nothing else mattered.  Now obviously I'm not a competitive person to begin with, but comparing this - not being concerned with my running stats - with how I felt after my scroll through those Instagram posts was pretty remarkable.

Hopefully I can remember this the next time I decide to take a little scroll through Instagram.

21 comments:

  1. I love your outlook on this! What gets me is when some of those super fast runners who post their times state that they are unhappy about their "slow" finish time, ha, as if..lol. But seriously, I am never jealous of anyone who is faster because finishing a race a few minutes earlier is not going to change my life. I do however record my times on all my runs and races just because I am a data geek. But I record everything down to the weather and calories, etc.

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    1. Oh, I hear you on their "slow" times - I know we're all different, but come on!

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  2. I stopped comparing myself to others long time ago. If it's about my running, or my weight, or my photography. There are always people that run faster (or more often), that look better and that take better photos.
    There aren't many people/runners that do what you do. You hardly ever miss a run, no matter what the weather conditions are. You run for 9 years now. You have a fantastic running group. I think there will be "looking good" runners that will be jealous of you.

    And remember: there are always people that don't tell the truth on social media. Or photoshop. Recently I read a news article that there are more 18 year old men registered on Facebook that there are in the world right now. Guess a lot of them are lying about there age.

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    1. OK, that's pretty creepy about the 18 year old men Facebook fakers!

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  3. I get this, and have definitely fallen into the trap of comparing myself to other runners in the past too. I had to un-follow a lot of blogs and Instagram accounts because I couldn't deal with people complaining about their "slow" 9:00 miles (and I get that it's all relative, but that can make people like me running "fast" 12:00 minute miles feel kind of bad!). But the thing is, those running selfies are totally staged. Someone I follow on IG posts them pretty regularly, and every single time I see that stride I wonder if that's really what they look like when running (versus "running" by their camera). Likely not.

    I ran a race yesterday where I probably could have gotten a PR, but I was running with my best friend, who I only see a few times a year, so running a little slower so we could chat and enjoy the day was just more important to me. In my book, having people that you can enjoy running with is so much better than Insta-worthy form or a bunch of PRs :)

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    1. I hope a lot of those running selfies are staged, because seriously, I never see any of my friends running like I do on Instagram.

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  4. I stopped posting my stats a few years ago for the reasons you mentioned--not because seeing other people's stats made me feel bad, but because I think I was making people feel bad. I know this based on comments I received. This was on FB--I didn't really get active on IG until about a year ago, like you. Now I just have fun with my selfies.

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    1. Your jumping selfies and the outtakes are hilarious!

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  5. IMHO even worse than comparing yourself to other runners, is comparing yourself to yourself. One of the trainers from my last marathon is now training for a marathon herself and hadn't run one in the last 9 years. She has been having a terrible time with comparing what she's doing now to what she did in 2008. I totally get that as wouldn't we all like to be our younger, faster selves? But it's truly more harmful than helpful as so much of training, racing, and running is mental.

    I am glad you've found what works for you and I am also convinced this is why you keep racing - and enjoying your racing and running.

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    1. For sure, if I look back on my running in 2010, I can get wistful about that - mostly because as usual, I didn't appreciate how well I was doing at the time. Will I ever learn??

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    2. You are awesome just the way you are Shelley!!

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  6. I am fairly competitive, and so I fall prey to comparing sometimes. For a long time, I've realized that that competitive nature was not usually a good thing, so I actively work at NOT being competitive. Also, I don't even know how to get on Instagram, and I'm determined to not find out :)

    You have been a real model of how to continue living the best healthy real life in the real world. Really :)

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    1. Thank you, Debby - I try to keep it real, even when it's not so pretty. :)

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  7. I feel your pain. It seems that jumping is the in-thing and posting your 8 minute pace training runs.

    I never post my stats and my pics are of food, scenery and my runs. I do post my stats for races only on my blog because that's the only place I keep track.

    I am competitive but not with others - with myself.

    If you are having fun. That's all that matters.

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  8. It is an easy trap to fall into, Shelley. I'm not on Instagram, but I do hide other people's run stat apps on Facebook - I just don't need to let myself go there. I have to say that I was SO excited to find your blog years ago when I was just losing weight and taking up running for the first time in 20 years. It was very refreshing to see someone I could relate to, close in age, no record-breaking runs, just consistency. Okay, I admit I was envious of your box jumps, but I can do little ones myself now, too :-) I am sure I'm not the only one who appreciates your honest and realistic take on things. Keep rockin' it!

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    1. Thank you for saying this, Emmaclaire - I appreciate it so much. :)

      P.S. I can't do box jumps anymore because of my silly ankle - and I'm relieved, LOL. But I also can't jump rope either, and I do miss that. Good going for getting your box jump on!

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  9. I had to stop following Reese Witherspoon on IG because I kept thinking, "I could be as cute as her if I would just lose the weight" and it made me feel so bad about myself every time she posted a pic wearing her ridiculously expensive Draper James clothes (or whatever it's called). So I stopped following her and now I don't feel so bad. LOL! Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss!

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  10. I have sometimes gotten sucked up in the times and stats when I am running...sucked up in other people's numbers in comparison to mine. And it only hurts me. That said I would love to get faster....but in the meantime I'm out there doing it! (Well not this morning, it was raining!)

    Your blog has kept me grounded...because I've long sensed the feeling on your blog that it's about running not the stats!!!

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  11. It's so hard not to compare. Even when you know it does you no good, it happens anyway. You know those intstagram posters are insecure about what they post as well - unless they are narcissitic assholes, which could also be true :D

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  12. I am sorry it made you feel so bad. And am happy you remembered how awesome it is you've kept running and how happy you felt when you finished your last race and how much fun you had!

    Instagram recommends stuff like that for me too (I am also "new" - finally figuring out how to use it in a way I like) and I just breeze by the posts with all the numbers on there. I do on Facebook too. IDGAF. And those staged pics that people post all the time?! EYEROLL. Major eyeroll. But that is all running is for some people - numbers and/or the perfect photo. I am happy for you it's about enjoyment and not praise from strangers on the internetz.

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  13. It is brutal not to compare. So my instagram "likes" are generally, heart pictures, nature pictures, cats (who aren't as cute as Neva. HA! JK!!) and musical theatre. Social media is a blessing and a curse....

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