If I don’t post about my thru hike on social media, did it even happen?
Social media and I have a love/hate relationship. I literally joined Facebook and Instagram THIS year. Let that sink in. I went over 30 years without having an online social media presence. I am a shy, dorky introvert who didn’t want her weirdness on display. My oldest brother couldn’t understand how I didn’t have or want a Facebook page. When I was a teenager there was no Facebook, no Instagram, no YouTube. And no cell phones. We entertained ourselves by playing outside, reading books, talking to friends FACE TO FACE and on the phone. A corded phone, mind you. And God forbid you talk to your friends (and boyfriend-now husband) for hours, tying up the line while your Dad is trying to call. Sorry Mom.
Sharing is caring
I debated strongly before jumping into the pits of hell that is social media. However, I wanted a way to share my thru hike prep and journey with my friends and family, and this was the easiest and most popular way to do it. My family needed to know I haven’t been eaten by a bear and I also wanted to connect with the other thru hikers who are headed out in 2018. I belong to a few AT Facebook groups, some better than others. The best one by far is the AT Women’s group. There’s only positivity and support there, no meanness or belittling. No one is afraid to ask questions there because they know it’s a safe environment. So this is the good side of social media, meeting great people and getting helpful advice without a snarky “I know better than you” attitude. Then there’s the dark side.
Social media envy
I read an article in the January 2018 issue of Backpacker Magazine written by Ted Alvarez who stated “recent research rates Instagram as the worst social media platform for mental health and wellbeing, leading to documented cases of anxiety, depression and even bullying”. Ouch. It’s true though, because even I am guilty of Instagram envy. Seeing these beautiful girls on the tops of mountains, not sweating at all, hair perfect. Seriously?! After I have summited a huge mountain I’m red faced and super sweaty, snot everywhere and my thick curly hair has just manifested itself into a dangerous tangle of Medusa locks. And that’s AFTER I tried to control/hide it under a Buff.
Now my feelings of accomplishment, bad-assedness, and self-confidence have just been wiped away in a second, because there’s no way I measure up to those mountain goddesses. I haven’t felt this inadequate since high school! And it’s all thanks to social media because my self-confidence was perfectly fine before I perused Instagram, thank you very much. After going through these emotions your reaction is to go out and do SOMETHING, to take pictures and immediately post it to get likes and validation of the awesome human you are. Guess what? You ARE an awesome human, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Unless you are like, a murderer or something. Or Justin Bieber.
To vlog or not to vlog
In the same Backpacker article Ted also encouraged putting your phone away while out adventuring. He wrote “The constant focus on snapping the perfect wilderness photo can actually rob us of the memories we’re trying to preserve”. Ted stated he was guilty of this as well and has started a new approach, every other trip will be just for him, present in the moment of the hike with no phone. I admit, I have gotten in the habit of viewing scenes as social media worthy, instead of being present in the moment. Most of the time I can do both, take an Instagram worthy photo but then close my eyes, breathe in the fall leaf smell, listen to the birds, and just….be. But there’s still that pull to post about it. Because if you didn’t post it on social media it didn’t happen, right?
Which brings me to one of the more popular ways to share your hike, YouTube. I thought about doing this for a hot second, before realizing it was WAY too much work. I truly want to enjoy my hike, and if I think I’m missing things now by just taking pictures, I can’t imagine how much I’d miss by filming stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching other people’s videos, and appreciate all the work they put into doing it. But I’m not going to join that group, which I’ve heard is at least forty channels now for 2018 and growing every day.
The support system for these YouTubers is phenomenal, which I think is why a lot of people decide to do it. However, there are downsides too. Fans tracking down hikers to meet them on the trail, which is kinda scary. I know they mean well, but still… creepy much? I have also heard a rumor that people BET MONEY on which YouTubers will make it and which ones won’t. So they post horrible, negative comments on the ones they are betting against. I really hope this isn’t true, because that is DEPLORABLE if it is. For my fellow 2018 hikers, if you are YouTubing be careful. Post your videos long after you have left that area and if someone posts negative comments, shut that s**t down. You don’t need that crap, bet on your own damn self!!
Even though I struggle with social media, I will be sharing my journey on Instagram, Facebook and (obviously) blogging for this amazing website. You’re welcome to follow along if you’d like. And if you don’t see anything posted for a while, I’m probably fine, Mom and Dad. I’m just taking it all in, enjoying the sights, sounds and joys of the Appalachian Trail. Phone in my pocket, smile on my face, being present in the moment. Because some things are better left to make their mark in your heart and soul, not on social media.
Until next time,
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.