The (un) Reality of the Blog World


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These last few days I have vented some of the frustrations I had with the blog world that led me to take a two week hiatus (sounds like nothing now, but in my head it was significant) a few months back … but as I have done the posts I have realized through my writing and the great comments that it was all about much more. My thoughts on ‘blogs as inefficient’ in particular turned into something that gets at the difficulty of being ‘present’ in the face of technology. And the comments in my ‘Schadenfreude’ post pointed to something else … that sometimes the blog world isn’t exactly the most honest or healthy place.

Telling it Like It Isn’t

A couple of weeks ago Hollie had one of the best picture/comment combos I have seen recently – she was out and saw tiny utensils and asked “why are the mini blogger utensils more expensive then the normal sized ones?”

Some commenters were ‘correcting’ her that they were baby utensils, but she made it clear that she knew EXACTLY what she was saying:

I was referring to them as blogger utensils since a lot of healthy living bloggers like to use smaller utensils.

There were many possible ways of interpreting that … but I was reminded of something Arman pointed out a while back:

I was informed that there are bloggers out there whom, using various camera techniques and angles- are able to make a minisecule portion of food look greater than it is.

In video games this is called the ‘bullshot’. In that context it is a misrepresentation that is intended to pique interest.

In the HLB context it is more often than not a misrepresentation of what someone is ACTUALLY eating … and really, there are only THREE reasons I can think that someone would do that – because that was only made for thepicture, or to hide overeating, or to hide calorie restriction. Neither of the last two is healthy.

Also unhealthy? Discovering that someone has been using supplements to avoid eating actual meals. I’m not talking about an occasional protein shake to fuel workouts (those are insanely filling!), but actually using nutrient pills instead of eating … and flying into a rage when questioned about it. It is very sad, but we’re all adults here and have to make our own choices and deal with the consequences.

Along the same lines, I used to follow a blogger who got injured, then within a few months was suddenly doing post-injury activities again … it capped off an entire cycle of behavior that kept getting revealed after the fact as less-than-forthright (being generous) … and was an immediate unfollow for me. I don’t handle dishonest people well – especially ones who will not allow questioning or dissenting voices.

More Specifically

There are really three areas where I have seen unreality:

Thinspo / Fitspo: most of us have seen ‘pro-Ana’ sites, which actively encourage anorexia and other dirordered eating. And most people agree that these sites are incredibly unhealthy. But if you really pay attention to some fitness and ‘healthy living’ blogs, you will find that many are pushing and advocating tremendous amounts of exercise while still restricting caloric intake, choosing ‘zero point’ foods like carrots and plain mustard after a 10 mile run, or a recovery snack of a half an apple and teaspoon of nut butter or whatever.

Fueling is incredibly important, and young women in particular are very susceptible to body image issues and the whole food industry push of ‘fat is bad’. Sadly there are some widely read blogs where either the person has admitted past disorders or is apparently dealing with one now, yet pushes their approach very strongly. I have managed to get myself banned from commenting on at least one of those … without personal attacks, profanity, or anything but direct questions …

Bad Eating Advice: aside from the ‘relentless pursuit of size zero’, there are those who through reading articles and some self-success and positive feedback have gotten an inflated sense of expertise. Reading about how a certain supplement worked for someone and using it yourself … fine, like I said we are adults here.

But when these bits are posted with post titles like ‘Ultimate Guide’ or ‘Everything You Need to Know’, and backed up directly or indirectly with educational and/or race credentials … well, suddenly it takes on a whole new meaning. Again, I have seen young kids and new runners take stuff on some of these blogs very seriously, like direct medical advice … and once that starts happening I believe the blogger has a more direct standard of personal accountability, and needs to understand the impact of what they are doing.

Bad Fitness Advice: most of the blogs I read are very clear about not offering professional or expert advice, and personally I am specific about recommending you stay away from what I do as a generally ‘good idea’. But I have seen an interesting trend in blog ‘meta-discussions’ (these are forum talks about a cross section of running blogs) … they tend to weigh advice higher if the person giving it is faster.

To an extent that makes sense – I mean, they have demonstrated proficiency at a higher level, right? Yeah, but some of them are IDIOTS … with tons of raw talent. Some of the discussions point that out, but others will look at a PR time and just assume that whatever that person says is “THE TRUTH’. My worry is obvious – someone WILL get hurt.

Our Insular World

Running and healthy living bloggers all share an understanding of much of the terminology (dreadmill, fartlek, burpees, etc), physical conditions (chafing, zombie toes, etc) and the general feelings of a great workout. In regards of enjoying a workout, we are like everyone else who does exercise, but endurance runners and people who try to sustain healthy eating to fuel that type of workout regime take it all to the next level.

As such many people who are not doing this feel it can become obsessive, but the flip side of that is we live in a rather insular world – only people who have gone through running 6+ days a week for a sustained period, fueled heavily and still been ‘hangry’, lost toenails, bought a huge supply of band-aids, and so on will really connect with the things we take for granted.

Because of this we can lose objectivity – it is good to have a reality check in our life … and we don’t ever want to get to the point that ‘getting injured’ is our reality check. When I look around the running / HLB world I have seen new people immersing themselves fully, taking ALL of the advice, surrounding themselves with like-minded people … and getting hurt.

True … From a Certain Point of View

Look – NONE of us reveals everything that goes on in our lives. Look at it this way – some of us have children, more are married and pretty much every blog I followed has discussed dating at some point. So it is pretty safe to bet that at least the overwhelming majority of us have had sex at some point – hetero, homo, whatever … but none of us really needs to discuss it or know about each other’s sex life … and that is pretty much all I will ever say on that subject. 🙂

My point – while we discuss many things on our blogs, and many of us actually reveal a great deal about ourselves (more than I would have ever guessed I would reveal) … there is always much we leave unsaid. Which isn’t a bad thing – certainly I view myself very much as an introvert and private person, and have no plan or desire to reveal everything about myself.

But aside from WHAT we say, there is also HOW we say it … in other words, we each represent a singular viewpoint. If we are talking about a relationship, we are telling (at most) 50% of the story. I love that my wife is open and free providing feedback and a reality check – while at the same time being incredibly supportive of my running and crazy eating!

But what happens when you don’t have an alternate view point is you can lose perspective. I laughed about how one morning I was running really well, felt great and was pushing the pace – which for me means I was in the 8+ minute range – and someone blew by me. Again, it really doesn’t matter, but it is also a reminder that everyone is in a different place, perhaps doing a different type of run or whatever. We have to avoid applying false context, but also remember that we can seldom see the entire picture.

And … so?

Here is the bottom line – there is no great ‘truth dispensor’ … and we need to be very careful about how much faith we put into the advice we read on blogs. But since most of the people reading this are at least a few years past high school, I feel that as adults we need to take some responsibility for the running / HLB community as a whole.

I have commented many times and found myself unwelcome because of questioning the blogger (when your supplement of choice has significant kidney & liver side effects and you don’t mention those … um, not cool) – but I won’t stop. I want every new runner to get a lifetime of joy and benefits from the sport just as I have.

And if there is a bit of advice I WOULD like people to take from me it is this … there is no supplement or diet or 2-minute workout that is going to transform you into Meb / Shalane … sorry, but for the vast and overwhelming majority of us even a lifetime of hard work and eating right will still leave us towards the middle of the pack … but hey, we will be the best possible versions of ourselves. And for me, that is what matters most.

Random Question … Anyone in the Houston Area?

OK, so next week (June 23rd – 25th) I will be in Houston courtesy of the HP Houston Labs, and while I am not sure I will have much of any availability or extra time … couldn’t hurt to check, right?!?

What Do You Think About ‘Warped Reality’ in the HLB Blog World?