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Strava New Direct Messaging Feature Highlights Safety Concerns For Female Athletes

The latest feature has resulted in a spectrum of reactions

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Strava, the popular fitness app with over 100 million users, recently introduced a direct messaging (DM) feature aimed at fostering community engagement among athlete users. 

However, this seemingly innocent addition has sparked a heated debate, with users expressing both excitement and trepidation. In this article, we’ll explore the implications of Strava’s new DM feature, focusing on the safety concerns it has raised, particularly among women.

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The Excitement and The Concerns

The introduction of the DM feature was met with a spectrum of reactions. 

Some users, like Olivia Witherite from Brooklyn, saw it as an opportunity for flirtation and potential romantic connections. 

“You come off a long run, and you’re all sweaty, and you’re just going to fire off that risky DM,” she told the New York Times.

Social media was abuzz with jokes about Strava becoming the new dating app, with users sharing playful pickup lines related to running and pacing.

However, not everyone embraced the feature with open arms. 

Noah Kiernan, a member of a running group, reported that the sentiment among his peers, especially women, was mostly negative. 

“A lot of the sentiment was, Strava is not a dating app and is not meant to be one,” he told the New York Times.

Concerns centered around the potential for online harassment, as some feared the platform could become a breeding ground for inappropriate messages and unwanted advances.

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Privacy And Safety

Strava has faced privacy concerns in the past, with location data potentially revealing sensitive information. The lack of privacy from the app, which is also popular to cyclists, has even resulted in some break ins and theft, when location settings are not turned off or adjusted.

The safety implications of the DM feature, especially for women, are underscored by the ability for users to see each other’s running routes and initiate direct contact based on this information.

Strava maintains that user safety and privacy are top priorities and the company’s chief business officer, Zipporah Allen, emphasized its importance.

Strava provides privacy settings that allow users to control who can send them messages, ranging from anyone to only those they follow. The addition of being able to block other users gives athletes the ability to prevent communication from specific individuals, adding a layer of protection.

The company has implemented robust filtering mechanisms to address abusive or harassing messages. However, as the app caters to a global community with diverse preferences, finding a balance between connectivity and security remains a complex challenge.

Community vS. Safety

While some users value the sense of community Strava fosters, others feel that the introduction of messaging compromises the platform’s original purpose. 

Arianne Ontiveros, a dedicated user from El Paso, told The New York Times that she appreciates the social emphasis but acknowledges that the direct messaging feature might alter the app’s dynamics, potentially leading to more than just friendly interactions.

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An Overarching Societal Issue

The safety concerns associated with Strava’s new DM feature reflect broader societal issues. 

Women’s fears of exercising alone and existing online are not isolated to the Strava platform but are part of a larger problem. 

In the UK, for example, there are ongoing discussions in the Parliament around social media policing and the responsibility of platforms to address harmful content.

Strava’s entry into direct messaging has generated a mix of excitement and apprehension, particularly among women who fear potential safety risks. 

As the company strives to ensure user privacy and safety, the larger issue of societal challenges around women’s safety, both online and offline, remains a critical conversation. 

Striking a balance between fostering community engagement and addressing safety concerns will be an ongoing journey for Strava and similar platforms in the ever-changing landscape of social fitness apps.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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