Taking trail ethics of goodwill and support into our social media exchanges

It happened again this morning, a guy on a Facebook page for ultra and trail runners decided he was going to tell everyone why a certain shoe was wrong, why those who used that shoe were wrong for doing so and what they needed to do to fix their wrongdoings. 

This, of course, set off a melee of mean messages back at this individual and I jumped into it with my own attacks, belittling the comment and the guy. From there the frenzy continued with most firing at the post host, but there were a few who came to his defense. They were attacked as well.

So here we are in this amazing endurance sport that encourages self-improvement and achievement. When we get out on the trail, we are brothers and sisters all there for our own goals and we support one another in reaching them. But when we see a social media post that intends to incite conflict, many of us jump into the fray ready to tear apart those we would otherwise enjoy a nice morning run with.

My brother-in-law recently went on a news fast. He decided to stop consuming news as a way to improve his life outlook and overall mood. That's the same reason many of us run. It's an escape from daily stresses. We disconnect from the noise of work and other world worries and stride into the woods with like-minded friends or on our own. 

The guy who posted about the shoe thing – he may have been angry or he may have been thinking that he was onto something and wanted to share his thoughts in hopes of helping others. I don't know and should I even concern myself with it? It's tough sometimes to walk away when someone says something seemingly mean or hurtful. We feel the need to retaliate, not knowing who that person is or why they really said what they did.

Maybe next time I come by one of these comments, I will keep going. Silence may be consent when they're looking but in the world of social media, silence can be deafening to a troll. And if I do decide to say something I would like to believe it will be positive. Maybe that troll is going through something. 

Ultrarunning, like other endurance sports, has its highs and lows. Imagine it's 2 a.m. and you're in the middle of a 100 miler.  You pass someone on the dark trail and say "nice job" as you go by, but all you hear back is angry grumbling. Your first thought isn't to be angry for the disgruntled response. You know what they are going through is tough because you are there with them. So you either slow down and walk with them to support a fellow runner or continue on knowing that person is in a bad stretch and they are working through some stuff. The same thing happens in life. The shoe guy may have been angry and that post was a way of expressing that anger. Did he get what he wanted with the angry responses and attacks? Well, sort of. It's been said that even negative attention is attention, and he was certainly looking for that or he wouldn't have posted. But was retaliation what he needed or even what I needed? Did my mean-spirited response leave him or me in a better place? I'd say no.    

Maybe silence would have served us both better. Or maybe even engaging him in a real conversation like you would someone on the trail. Find out who they are and why they feel what they do. That's what we do as runners. That's what we do as humans.