You can run away, you can walk away, you can leave your communication devices behind, but in our ubiquitously Internet connected world there is one universal truth: you cannot hide from social media. There are many wonderful aspects of social media – it helps keep friends, family, businesses, customers, etc. connected regardless of distance or time. This has to be great news for us runners, right?

As runners, each time we log on to Facebook, we are instantly bombarded with status updates and posts from our running family and friends. They post about their most recent training run, gym session, race performance, inspirational running motivational poster/quote, tips, diet, power food, etc. Almost every running and training app now reports workouts and race performances straight to Facebook. You really cannot run away from Facebook.

Sociologists using an approach called social rank theory believe that for most users Facebook is largely about building and maintaining positive self-presentation. In on particular study, it states that if Facebook users perceive their social attractiveness on Facebook as lower than that of other users, they will feel subordinated, which can bring about negative feelings and emotions. Many studies (1,2) are reporting that Facebook makes us feel negative.

How can you prevent Facebook having a negative effect on your running?

One status check too many?

Do you check Facebook directly before your run and immediately after it? Do you bring your phone with you to check Facebook during your run? Stop that! You should treat your training run (either solo or group) as a sanctuary in your daily routine when you are doing something you really enjoy. It’s your run. What you see online during that time should not interfere. If you need to bring your phone with you on the run – turn off the Facebook app!

Why is everyone so positive on Facebook?

Facebook status updates allow high-control over self-presentation because the content, timing, and wording of status updates can be chosen carefully.

-Most people only post positive information to Facebook, so chances are you do not hear about their tough running days. Don’t let this fool you into thinking you are the only one having a tough running day or week.

-Everyone else seems more prepared, organized or motivated than you. This is when you need to exert control and realize that it is you who controls how prepared, motivated and organized you are. What you see on Facebook shouldn’t change or influence that.

Everyone is running better than me at the moment.

This is an optical illusion. Just like how the line you are in at the grocery store is always the slowest one. Right? Every day cannot be a great running day. However, one of the most under rated privileges for us runners is the fact that we can get out there every day and do something we love! Those tough running days will make the great days all the sweeter.

Status updates do not put finishers’ medals around your neck.

If you are training to compete, then how you perform in the race event is what matters. It’s not going to matter what type of status updates you posted in the days and weeks preceding the event.

Think about what YOU post:

Are you actually putting pressure on yourself through Facebook? Think carefully about status updates in the weeks and days before a big event such as a city marathon. Or ANY running event important to you. Gathering so many “likes” and support online can inadvertently add social pressure on you to perform on the big day. This can easily play on your mind during the event, and you might feel pressure not to “disappoint” people who supported you online.

By all means, share and celebrate your love of running and the success and achievements it brings to you on Facebook. But be careful that this doesn’t negatively impact your running. Remember, your personal achievements in running can never be measured in the number of likes you receive!


By Nichols