When I first joined Twitter years ago, it was a place to connect with like-minded individuals from around the globe. I was blown away by how a simple tweet could yield inspiration, information and the occasional kick in the ass from people I didn’t even know.
As a runner, it opened up a whole new world—one where I could simply @ mention my idol and she’d reply with a friendly recommendation for shoes or workouts, which is why I now tell people I am personally coached by Shalane Flanagan. (It’s not entirely a lie.) When Meb Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon in 2014, I watched it on two screens: the live TV broadcast, and on my laptop, where the rapid flow of tweets shared in my excitement that HOLY SH*T MEB IS WINNING THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Twitter was a cool place for runners back then—one where we could share in the joy of our sport, 140 characters at a time. But now? Now it’s the easiest, most direct path to telling people how much they suck.
Take, for example, a tweet I recently saw in my feed, directed at a local 5K:
“I’ll never do this race again. The weather was HORRIBLE.”
I hate running in a cold rain just as much as the next guy, but it’s not like race directors can pull a lever to make it stop. They just put on their ponchos, set up the cones at 3 a.m., and stand in the freezing rain until it’s time to take the cones down and go home to read your hate-tweets.
Or this tweet to another race:
“The hill in the final mile sucked. You really need to take that out.”
Sure. Let the race director grab a shovel and get right on that.
The worst is the entitled mini tweetstorm:
“The race starts in 15 minutes and I’m still in line for parking!”
“I can’t believe what a disorganized mess this is. #worstraceever”
“I better get my money back.”
I get it. Nothing is more stressful than a delay in getting to the start line. But scroll up a little bit, and you’ll see this same person tweeting a photo from the drive-through of a coffee shop only 20 minutes before the race start time. Before you rage-tweet, make sure it is not you who is the disorganized mess.
At some point, we realized social media was a direct line to vent our vexations and get people on board our outrage train. At that same point, we lost sight of what is truly outrageous. For a sport that’s supposed to be flooded with endorphins, runners sure are an angry bunch.
Let’s change that. When was the last time you used social media to lift someone up, not tear them down? The direct line works for that too, you know. As it turns out, 140 characters is plenty of space to pay someone a compliment.
Susan Lacke’s first book, Life’s Too Short to Go So F*cking Slow (2017, VeloPress), will be released in November.