Social Media & Learning to Hike Your Own Hike

We’ve all read the words thousands of times while perusing the various blogs put out by fellow hikers. They ring in my ears when I’m being passed by a faster person on trail or when I’m deciding whether to push on to the next summit or call it a day.  I like to think it was easier to Hike Your Own Hike back when we weren’t subjecting ourselves to the stress-inducing world of social media. However, in an age where our every move can be shared with the world, there has been a shift in how we view our lives.  We’ve fallen under the mentality that, “if it’s not posted on Facebook or Instagram, it isn’t worth doing.”

Unfortunately, I fell prey to the Social Media Monster.

As I was setting out on my fourth hike in seven days, it hit me.  Who was I doing this hike for?  I was tired, unmotivated, and not looking forward to the twelve mile day that was ahead of me.  The trail was muddy, the forest was full of shadows, and I was all alone.  I’ve learned to push through the desire to turn around on many hikes, but on this particular day, that desire overwhelmed me.  One mile in, I did an about face and headed back to my car.

Two hours later, I temporarily disabled my Instagram and stepped away from all things hiking related.    

As I was planning out my every move for my entire summer vacation, how many mountains could I squeeze into a two month time span, I realized I wasn’t doing all of this hiking for myself, I was doing it to prove to the world that I could, to post it out.  It started to feel like hiking was becoming my job, not my hobby, and I had to take a step back.

I’m beginning to reflect on who I am, what I want out of life, and what makes me happy.  I’ve immersed myself in the hiking culture for the past two and a half years and all of a sudden I didn’t want to have anything to do with hiking.  I felt like I had lost myself, like I had lost the only thing I had ever been truly passionate about, my identity, and it made me feel empty inside.

So what changed?  

Hiking had become less about the simplicity of it, the sheer joy that I felt when walking through the woods.  It had become about checking mountains off a list and getting as many “likes” as possible on my social media accounts.

So I slowed it down. I took a step back and I’m gradually starting to reintroduce hiking culture back into my life.  I am planning a hike in two days on a range of mountains I really enjoy and I may or may not post about it.  As much as I enjoy other people liking my photos on Instagram, my motivation for posting about my hikes has shifted slightly.

Maybe it’s selfish of me, but sometimes I want to keep my time in the woods to myself.  

I want to climb a mountain simply because I enjoy being out in the wilderness, not because it’s on a list or will  provide me with a photograph to share on social media.  I’m beginning to realize that I don’t need to beat others to the summit or try and increase my speed on the ascent to proved to myself that I’m a better hiker than someone else.  I don’t need to forego taking a picture of a Lady Slipper or a stream because it may kill my average speed.  The point of being immersed in nature is to take it all in, not to speed past it.

I plan on reactivating my Instagram account and continuing to post pictures from my hikes on there, but I’ve come to realize that I need to Hike My Own Hike, and if social media gets in the way of that in the future, I’d rather give it all up and go “off the grid” so I can keep my passion for the wilderness in tact.

“Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim”. Tyler Knott Gregson 

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Comments 7

  • Pando : Jul 9th

    “Maybe it’s selfish of me, but sometimes I want to keep my time in the woods to myself.” Prior to people competing for likes on social media THIS use to be why people went hiking in the first place…to “get away from it all.” It was never to impress or entertain others. Those “others” were who we were getting away from. That’s not selfish. Or, maybe it is, but because it didn’t involve depriving people of photos and content to comment, like and pick apart, it didn’t matter.

    This is an excellent post. It’s something I’ve wondered for a while (I started hiking pre-social media but I’m not so old that I don’t use and follow ig, fb, twitter, etc.) I often ask, “how many people are thru-hiking for themselves? How many are using it to impress/gain followers and to outdo their peers?” It would be interesting to debate the increase (especially of thru-hiking the AT), with the increased popularity of social media.

    Have to wonder…if there were no social media, how many hikers would be thru-hiking the various trails each year?

    Excellent food for thought you presented. And glad you were able to figure out what works for you.

    Reply
    • Socked In : Jul 11th

      It’s really hard to find the balance between hiking because I love it and to share it with others so that they can be motivated to get out there and enjoy nature. I have to say social media has motivated me to push myself harder and has had positive impacts on my health and motivated me to get in better shape. However it can also be overwhelming because you have a lot of people watching you and judging you ☺️Thanks for your comment!!!

      Reply
  • Princess : Jul 11th

    I haven’t posted a trip report in years. I completed the lists that I care to, and now I just hike for the fun. This last year has been hard because I am scheduled for a complete new knee in a few days, so I hope to back in the mountains by the late fall, and early winter which is my favorite time to hike. Although I do follow the hiking boards, it is just for entertainment and not for advice or self-congratulation.

    Reply
    • Socked In : Jul 12th

      Thanks for your comment! It’s neat to hear from everyone and that I’m not alone in my feelings/struggles with social media.

      Reply
  • Blade : Jul 11th

    I totally feel you. And I’m kind of concerned about My upcoming thru-hike of the PCT and TA in 2018. Back in 2015 along the AT it was offline most of the time. No Facebook, no Instagram and no other so-called social media stuff I had to take care of. All I did was writing a bunch of mails which friends and family could read if they wanted to. And I really felt freedom in this regard. On the other hand I’d like to show people that everyone is capable of doing a long distance hike if they are willing to put in everything they are. I’d like to inspire all who are interested in such adventures. Thinking about posting every single step I may or may not take on a trail like so many are doing makes me not feeling good at all. Sure, I want to do it because I love it. And I still want to share my adventures with all that may be interested in such things. But I won’t overdo that social media stuff. I don’t have to proof to anyone that I can do it. Except myself at the most.

    It’s the simple life, the trail, the people and nature what makes me want to go right now. Not the amount of likes I may get for pictures, videos or blog posts.

    It’s all about finding the right balance I guess so it’s not that bad to have reception just a couple if times within a few weeks.

    But hey. Hike your own hike is valid for everyone. Even in this regard.

    Love to see that I’m not the Only one thinking like you regarding such stuff.
    (I still caried 3 phones along the trail which I’m trying to avoid next time 😉

    Happy trails!

    ~Blade~

    Reply
    • Socked In : Jul 12th

      It’s really great to read what everyone posts from on trail – this website is one ways I learned about thru hiking – and reading people’s blog posts is super fun – but at the same time it can be somewhat overwhelming. I’m working on finding that balance 🙂 Have fun on the PCT!!!!

      Reply
  • Morning Glory : Jul 25th

    Safety is my primary reason for not posting on social media before or during a section on the AT but it’s equally important to me that my time in the woods be about the sacred solitude that brings re-centering. It’s sweet that friends are enthusiastic and supportive of my solo treks and want to “live vicariously through me” but being off the grid is the whole point. I’m happy for your realization 🙂

    Reply

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