Track miles, not likes.
Social media has infiltrated our lives in extraordinary ways in the past 10 years.
As well as making the world more connected, it has given us a tool which means we never need to be alone.
80% of us check our smartphones before brushing our teeth in the morning.
And while Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram claim to be tools for good, the effects they’re having on our lives are questionable. And depending who you listen to, potentially pretty damaging.
For some runners and athletes, posting to platforms like Instagram and Twitter have become a key part of their exercise routine, as integral as putting on their running shoes.
But I want to make the case that these platforms do not have our best intentions at heart, and that there’s only one social media platform you should use daily.
Strava calls itself a social fitness network.
Essentially it tracks your activities, offers a range of analysis tools, and easily connects you with your friends so you can follow each others’ progress.
So why should you choose Strava and jettison your other social media apps?
Strava has succeeded in building an activity-based social platform for athletes, with almost none of the dirty tactics of the big social media platforms.
It’s a place to go to share your activities, and connect with other athletes.
The only reason to go there is exercise and health-related. It has a clear purpose, and that is to promoting exercise.
That’s why I love it.
* There are other popular fitness tracking apps such as the Nike Running Club, RunKeeper, Runtastic – these are all good alternatives. However Strava is the biggest and arguably best of these, and is the closest rival to major social networks for our attention.
The Ugly Side of Social Media
The average person checks their phone 47 times per day.
This means they are looking at their screen roughly every 20 minutes.
This is no accident – most social networks were intentionally designed to be addictive. Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s biggest early investor, says so.
The addictiveness was ingrained in the design of these apps with features like the stream of notifications, infinite scroll, and the ‘like button’. Many of the software engineers who helped develop these tools now admit they were meant to be habit-forming, creating an addiction.
How does this affect us, the users?
The studies are depressing to read. Habitual social media use leads to anxiety, sadness, and poorer interpersonal relationships.
Although we might try and justify our social media use, chances are these platforms have greater control over us than we’d recognise.
The Ethical Case For Strava
While Strava has a lot of the same tools and features as other social media apps, they are at least used to promote health and activity. No incessant memes, no fake news; just the user’s activities.Strava does all the good things every social media platform claims to do – connecting us to each other, essentially – while avoiding the sinister practices the others thrive on.
What do I mean?
Every time you’re browsing Facebook, Twitter, or Google (or Amazon, or Youtube), you’re the subject of some of the most advanced marketing technology in the world.
By tracking your browsing history, habits, and on-screen behaviour, these companies know exactly how to target you in a way to maximise the chances that you’ll click on whatever they’re advertising.
This is usually a product chosen specifically based on the profile they have of you.
The vendors behind these ads pay the platforms well for this super-targeted adverts.
If you thought you were the customer, think again.
You are the product.
Strava separates itself from the regular social media companies in that it doesn’t sell user’s data to third parties for advertising.
This means you won’t see adverts on Strava – even on the free version.
So how does Strava make money?
It has the Strava Summit premium subscription, which costs $3 – 8 per month depending on your plan. It offers added analysis and safety features. Secondly, its Strava Metro program uses data from athletes who have opted in to work with urban planners to improve infrastructure. In other words, a revenue stream that improves their users’ society.
Thirdly, it partners with fitness brands like LuluLemon to create in-app fitness challenges, which are designed to compliment the user experience.
Strava For The World
Strava is where athletes live online.
It’s where Killian Jornet posted his world record double-summit of Everest (#1, and #2).
It’s where you can follow Nick Butter’s every step in his ongoing attempt to run a marathon in every single country of the world.
And it’s where I go for little runs round Madrid and occasionally post photos. *Strava’s community is formidable.Look at Strava Local, where athletes share their local running routes.
In a new city? Jump on and find the best places to run, as recommended by the experts who live there.
Or google #stravaart, and prepare to be amazed at some athletes’ dedication . . .
How To Ditch Traditional Social Media and Embrace Strava
Here are my tips for re-designing your relationship with social media, becoming healthier, and enjoying life more:
1. Remove all other social media apps from your phone
You can still keep your accounts open, but just check them on your computer instead. So you’re not missing out on anything.
This small step removes the temptation to ’check’ things every 20 minutes; when you’re bored, when you just wake up, and so on.
2. Set aside a specific time to ‘check-in’ with your social media
Commit to checking your regular social media platforms once per day at a specified time. Doing a digital detox, or deleting them altogether, is arguably the best option – but are often too big a step, at least initially.
Instead, set aside a window to check your social media accounts, and keep a note of how much time you spend on them! Also, mentally note how many times you unintentionally get pulled down a social media rabbit hole and forget why you’re there.
3. Install the chrome plug-in ’Facebook News Feed Iradicator’
This simple plugin (link) has given me back countless hours of my life. All it does is blank out the Facebook news feed when you’re on the Facebook home screen.
This means any time you go to Facebook, your attention is much less likely to be vacuumed into a mindless scroll-fest of things you don’t need to know about.
4. Use Twitter and Instagram with intention
If you choose to still use platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, become aware of their pitfalls, and set out some rules for using them.
For example, you may decide you want to continue to use twitter in order to communicate with running experts or see what a specific person is sharing.
Beware of getting dragged into scroll-fests! Same goes for Instagram; many people justify using it as a means to build their brand, or share their values. In which case, don’t get sucked into following hundreds of others, or exchanging follows and likes.
5. Use ‘likes’ with caution
In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport describes how the ‘like’ button is basically the work of an evil genius. It’s digital cocaine.
As well as being designed to give us all tiny dopamine hits, the real danger of the ‘like’ button is that people begin to replace real human communication with a single click.
Next time you are hovering over the tiny thumbs up, think about writing a comment, a direct message, or even calling the person instead.
6. Join Strava and leap in!
Install the Strava app and get started.
Add your friends.
If your friends aren’t on it, add me.
Go for a few runs, check your relative effort.
Take pictures; I do, and then enjoy looking back over my runs.
Run with friends and tag each other in your activities.
Join a challenge.
Logon to Strava via your computer and tell them which shoes you’re running in, so you can track mileage.
With these steps, I hope you’ll find you begin to curb your activity from regular social media channels, and begin to make Strava your main social media platform.
Count the miles, not the likes.
If this post has enflamed your enthusiasm to cut back on devices and social media, I highly recommend Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism – it spawned a lot of my thoughts on the matter.