Skiing and Social Media – The End of Adventure?
It’s the norm these days, and not just with skiing. For a lot of people, everything they do is catalogued, filmed and photographed so it can be posted to some form of social media. Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest…all of these platforms offer the opportunity to showcase to the world what it is we do with our time. In the realm of mountain culture, social media is the new means by which we see how athletes push the boundaries of our sports. Sure, there are still full length ski films, but more and more, our connection to professional athletes in skiing is through social media. That filters down to the mere mortals of the sport. So many of us constantly post photos and video footage of us doing what we love. But I am finding, more and more, that something is lost with that. Every time I head out for a day of ski touring or some other outdoor endeavour with a group of people, more often than not, social media plays a role in the outing itself. There is constant stopping for photos or videos. There is the pervasive, even invasive need to record everything about being outside for day in the mountains.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for iPhones and a Gopro when you’re out shredding laps in the backcountry. What I am saying is that the never ending need for us to build a running, visual history of how we spend our time is done at the expense of the experience itself. I have never been one to take a lot of photos of the things I do. With skiing, for instance, and I’m no slouch in that department, over more than thirty years of skiing and more than twenty years of 100 to 200 day seasons, there are very few photos of me skiing. Why is that? Mainly cause I can’t be bothered to wait. But more than that, I cherish the endeavour itself more than making a record of that endeavour happening.
As I mentioned above, there is absolutely a place for social media in our outdoor pursuits. Pushing the envelope of what’s possible can only be known if it is recorded and the never ending push from athletes and the companies that sponsor their pursuits is a welcome and fantastic thing. To see that on various social media platforms has put some sports on the map and brought other sports within reach of so many people that would otherwise have never known of, or been able to contemplate participating, in those sports. But again, with all of us regular folk, having this storm cloud of pressure over everything we do because we feel the need to catalogue and, essentially, advertise to the world our experiences, is bordering on the ridiculous.
Time and again, the experience of being out there, whether it’s a day of backcountry skiing, climbing or riding a mountain bike, is becoming a slave to having to make a record of being out there. I’m not saying we should stop taking pictures or posting to social media, I have just noticed that the journey is starting to suffer. Part of the fun, for me, of going outside and enjoying everything the world has to offer, (in this case, spending my leisure time in the mountain environment) is the unknown and almost mysterious nature of the experience itself. Every time I begin a climb or start a ride or put my skins on, I never know what’s going to happen that day. What I do know is I am present and focused and grateful for every minute spent in the mountains. It’s a place where I feel relaxed and at ease with everything in my life. Having to experience that under some weird need to catalogue it for later publication, or to film it so it will last a lifetime is somehow, to me, a travesty.
Part of the experience of being present is that once it’s passed, it is the past. My memories are a wonderful thing, but being able to never stop exploring the present is the true gift of existence. Recording my life’s experience on social media takes away from that. It turns things like the fear you experience lead climbing or the exercise of making hard decisions in the mountains or even the bliss of skiing waist deep turns into a commodity of sorts, there to be catalogued, advertised, and sold into our personal marketing machine to showcase to the world that our lives are amazing. My life is pretty good, and I don’t need a visual history of it to prove that to myself or the world around me. So next time you’re out in the mountains, or the ocean or the forest or anywhere else, for that matter, take a moment to put away your phone or your Gopro and just experience things as they are, without the aid or hindrance of social media.
Be safe, ski hard.