November 17, 2017

Social Media, Me, And Climbing

Recently I've had the chance to spend a few fun days in the mountains with one of my colleagues, Tad McCrea. Tad is a big guy with a big personality, and I like hanging out and climbing with him because of his enthusiasm and the fact that he's great to talk to. Tad holds strong opinions, but he's a good listener and he gives new ideas their due consideration.

One of the things we talked (and joked) about a lot was social media and it's relationship to climbing and climbers. It's a topic that's been on my mind of late, as I've been rethinking my own rocky relationship with Facebook and Instagram. One of the main reasons I'm on social media is to promote myself as a mountain guide. Lately though, I've been wondering if the benefit I get from that self promotion is worth the time-suck and (I'm a little embarrassed to write this) periodic FOMO. Like a hangboard, social media is an amazing tool but it will mess me up if I don't respect it. So, I've decided to try to be a little more disciplined and generally less active on Facebook and Instagram.

Tad in action on some steep neve on Mount Humphreys.
Two articles I've recently read online also deal with this topic. Nick Bullock wrestles with some of the same thoughts and feelings I do (though he does a much better job of writing about them) in this recent blog post (Shifting Thresholds... from October 19, 2017). Admitting to my own FOMO is - in part - inspired by the honesty in his post.

I came across Katie Lambert's article for Climbing Magazine while having a couch day yesterday (Out On A Ledge: The Curated Image from January 9, 2017). She looks at climbing and social media from the other side, that of the consumer. She explores the idea that, "average Joes and Janes can chase fame without backing their stories with either substance or experience" and, "real badass news and quality storytelling get lost in the shuffle".

Her writing really resonated with me. Renown in the climbing world without recognizable climbing achievement doesn't make much sense to me, but it seems to be happening more and more. When we substitute fame for real skill and experience we cheapen words like "epic" and "adventure" because the people using them don't know what a truly epic adventure is. For climbers with less experience this can give a skewed and unrealistic view of what climbing is and what they can expect of themselves. Lambert gives an unsettling example of this happening.

Re-reading the paragraphs above makes me feel like a crusty old guy. That's another thing I like about hanging out with Tad. He's younger than me but he feels even more strongly about this stuff. Maybe I'm not so crusty after all.