I’m gonna be the old man on the porch. It needs to be said.
The times they are a-changing. And they’re changing fast. Things that would have been viewed by most people as completely insane just a few short years ago, are now becoming ubiquitous. I recently finished a run on a bike path where I live, and the majority of the people riding bikes (the vast, VAST majority) were either filming themselves, taking photos of themselves or facetiming somebody.
One guy was laid across the entire southbound lane of the bike path on his stomach with a DLSR so he could take photos of a girl who was posing in a bikini. When I ran back by 45 minutes later, he was still there, doing the exact same thing, still laid across the bike path.
I get it. The allure of social media status has completely outweighed everything else. The ability to exist in any situation completely depends on the amount of attention you think you could be getting. If you think you can garner enough, you’ll do something as outrageously ridiculously as lying across an entire bike lane for almost an hour, blocking hundreds of people’s path and completely forgoing any amount of respect you may have had for your fellow citizens. Not to mention those last shreds of personal pride.
I honestly never expected it to bleed into the trail and ultra scene quite so hard and quite so fast. The entire allure of trail running for me was as an escape. To get away from all the bullshit. To leave my phone and my inbox and the rest of the world behind, to get out on the trails away from all the commotion and be present. It helps me balance out the rest of my life. My screen time, my poor eating choices, too much sitting… all these things can be mitigated by a long, hard mountain run. You come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
It’s essentially the opposite of what Jamil Coury does. When was the last time that guy went on a run without a camera? Then he comes back and whines into the camera for eight and half minutes about how stressed out he his, how much editing he has to do, and how it’s so important for him to get his videos out to “to his fans”. Like there’s some sort of hard deadline being imposed by someone. Like all his “fans” are gonna die if they can’t watch his next video where he shows off the new car he just got.
The V-log/Snapchat/Instagram Story thing is probably what has gotten to me most. The mumbling The lack of quality is appalling. If you’re gonna produce content, edit it. Nobody wants to want watch you say “uhhhh” 75 times in a six-minute video. Would it be that big of a deal to write some thoughts down on an index card? I would expect this from someone as dull as Sage Canaday. But we know that Jamil can put out quality content. He does it once a week with his Mountain Outpost newscast. When you script what you’re going to say, or maybe even just think about it a little bit, it isn’t quite as appalling. In fact, sometimes it’s really good.
Chris Mocko, who is definitely the posterboy for “how to be an ultra douchebag”, was actually writing some decent content on his Medium-hosted website. I mean, it was somehow all about money and and how he quit his tech job, but at least he was sitting down and formulating content. He was creating something that he obviously gave a little bit of thought to.
Then, apparently he realized how easy it was to just film himself walking through Costco rambling about nothing and throw the video up and get a couple thousand easy views. Why bother sitting down and typing out an article? It’s all becoming pretty unbelievable. Here’s a guy who has one successful 100-mile finish under his belt on a course with a net elevation loss and he has the audacity to title a series of videos: “How to Train for UTMB”. What does he know about it? Has he run the race before? And no one calls him out on this shit? It’s just a big circle jerk.
Billy Yang probably spent more time editing the trailer for The Unknown than Chris Mocko has spent on his entire 50+ vlog catalog, including the conceptualization and editing (Ha! Just kidding, Mocko doesn’t edit). It’s really sad that someone who takes the time to actually THINK about his content (and this is obviously understating it enormously) is getting the relative same amount of views as someone like Mocko or Canaday.
(Full disclosure: I have never watched a Sage Canaday v-log. A long time ago, my Youtube autoplay cued up one of his videos and he was supposedly just finishing a 20 miler in the middle of a 100 mile week and he goes, “Just finished a 20 miler, getting the legs nice and sore going for a 100 mile week.” Then he points at the camera and and says, at the absolute apex of douche: “Don’t try this at home.” I had just finished a 100 mile week, despite having a full-time job and getting no support from anybody. So I immediately turned it off and vowed never to watch him again. He might be scripting his content, but from what I’ve heard, it’s chock full of “ummm” barrages and repetitive, tangential garbage.)
At the end of the day, however, it’s not their fault. These guys are trying to make a living doing what they love. Sure, they might be bastardizing the hell out of something that has given them so much, something that they purport to love, but apparently they don’t see any other way.
The fault here lies with the community. It lies with us. Mocko isn’t throwing in the towel on his website and focusing solely on his stellar YouTube content because he gets less views there. He’s doing it because he gets a lot more. Is this what we really want? Is this really how you want to spend our time.
The argument against this usually goes something like this: Chris Mocko is sharing with the community. He’s putting himself out there and inspiring tons of people. He’s a saint, paragon and a model of excellence. Anyone who says anything bad about him or what he’s doing is an asshole. Period.
It’s funny how these arguments always sound dogmatic (and I would know, I’ve got the Reddit comments to prove it). It’s always “if you don’t like it, don’t watch” or some other such sentiment that completely misses the point. Someone comes with a solid, logical argument about why something is inherently bad or dangerous or annoying and you never, ever get any logic back.
You just get people who are upset for some reason simply because I said something that wasn’t positive. It doesn’t matter what it is. I could have said that Chris Mocko smells like shit and the reaction would be the same as if I said I hate his YouTube channel and think that it’s bad for the running community and the world.
This is why someone like Dakota Jones is forced to opine about social media use in an entirely satirical way. And while this is funny, all he’s doing is normalizing these things. Despite what seem to be the best intentions, he’s really only making things worse. It’s the Satire Paradox, something Malcolm Gladwell does an amazing job illustrating here.
But when I read Dakota Jones’s piece or stumble across a funny comment in a Strava activity like this one:
I can’t help but feel slightly hopeful. Hopeful for our attention spans, hopeful for humanity, hopeful that pure vanity isn’t going to win out. There are the guys and girls out there who are doing it right. Tim Tollefson would never pull this shit. Mike Foote does just fine making a living from running without being a douchebag in the slightest. You can even have a huge presence, like Emilie Forsberg, without compromising your humility.
Can you imagine Jeff Browning filming himself saying “Any runner can get a free pair of socks or a few gels… but how about a full shoe sponsorship?!?” and then proceeding to dance around in praise of himself for the next three minutes? Why is this acceptable?
Time is a valuable commodity and whenever I watch one of these videos, I feel like I’ve wasted time I can’t get back. I feel like I’m losing touch with the world. I feel like everyone has lost their mind. I feel like an old man on the porch trapped in a 30-year-old body. I’ve vowed to stop. I can’t do it anymore. My only hope is that you will stop too. Stop consuming this garbage. Take a stand. Vote with your time. I’ll tell you right now, your time is much more valuable than this:
Recently, Kendrick probably said it the best: Be Humble. Sit Down.