Over the last few months, I’ve heard multiple podcasts making mention of “fake people” on social media (in a much more eloquent fashion). While they’re correct, I can’t help but feel the tone of the message was painting social media with a broad brush; ultimately suggesting that as an attention grab, most people are posting pictures of a rosy life of adventure (or supposed affluence), and you shouldn’t waste your time with it. Certainly, those accounts are out there, but you won’t find many of them in my feed. While I admit, I inch closer and closer to parting ways with Facebook with each passing day, I can’t help but mention the incredible relationships I’ve discovered thanks to Instagram (even after what Facebook has done to it). Despite the negative aspects of social media, I’ll argue that if used carefully, it makes for a better community than you might expect.
One of the best parts of the internet is that it’s given people a voice. Unfortunately, it’s also given people a voice… like trolls. Some folks just want to bring other people down to their level of unhappiness. On the flip side, some folks want everyone to believe they live in some sort of fairytale. Personalities on the interwebs are as diverse as the real world, unfortunately, it’s easy to find the negative side of humanity on social media. Some folks are addicted to likes but insecure about their failures. We’ve met those people, they’re rock stars in videos… but stumble and stammer when you meet them in person. I’m not here to bring those people down, I’m purely saying that “everything is not as it seems”. I actually think most of us know when we’ve encountered fake people or trolls. We’re not duped, but we’re pretty turned off by the experience. However, I am saying, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Going on 5 years now, I started Moto Adventurer as a winter outlet. At the time, I thought I rode a lot, so why not talk about what I’ve discovered by doing things the wrong way, or lessons learned from “being cheap”. The other side of that is that I love photography. I’m not going to claim to be good at it, but I love taking photos. I live to be outdoors, so riding the motorcycle in the woods merges three of my passions, riding, nature, and photography. Instagram became a place I could share just my photos without having to proofread a story. I will not deny that I also went through of phase of being “addicted” to likes, as many of us have in some form or another, thus spending more time on Instagram. I surfed photos of other people riding Triumphs and started meeting more people that enjoy riding the same way I do. Shortly after, things started to change.
A few weeks ago I posted my most recent race video on YouTube. Someone mentioned they liked how I included all the crashes and mistakes. My response was that “I’m a mortal on a mortal motorcycle”. That was a big step for me. A few years ago, I think I would’ve had a hard time exposing my less than flattering moments on the internet. No one wants to be that person that trips on the curb walking into the grocery store, unless you’re Chris Farley. Over the last year or two my social media feed has shifted from a collage of pretty pictures to include the funny mishaps in life; more about the calamity of when things go wrong and less about the shining house on the hill. Hindsight is 20/20, but what started out as being “informative” on a blog has grown into “entertainment”. Much to the chagrin of my wife, this often means I make myself the center of attention (consciously or unconsciously); but I like to make people laugh, see the irony of life, and enjoy the journey despite the struggles. After mixing it up with the likes of @Steve_Kamrad, @OverkillAndy, @oneWheelWheatley, and countless others, I realized that if I can’t help folks solve a problem, I at least want to make them laugh.
When this realization of entertainment, failure, and authenticity started to become obvious, I noticed how many genuine people I’ve connected with on Instagram. That said, I’m old enough to remember life before the internet, and old enough to think Internet dating was the craziest thing imaginable. As such, talking with people across the internet always felt guarded. Meeting people from the internet seemed like the fastest way to end up in a trash bag in someone’s trunk. While I certainly practice caution, I don’t fully share those feelings anymore. I’ve had beers with fellow riders I’ve met on social media. Instagram is literally why Red River Scramble takes place every year. I remember grade school pen pals and 90s AOL chat rooms; neither of which do I keep up with. However, today we have the opportunity to keep up virtual relationships with people all across the globe. I bullshit with fellow riders on the west coast every few days. I keep up with former Red River Scramble attendees that are stationed outside the country. While motorcycles are what we have in common, we have all realized we share similar tastes in riding, and have found a “tribe” of genuine personalities through the lens of social media. Folks may only see a snapshot of everyday life, but they realize these are not handpicked, airbrushed, polished and edited images; these are bolt breaking, rim bending, buried axle-deep in the mud, broken leg moments we’ve all shared with one another.
For all the “fakeness” and “keeping up with this Joneses” that we’re all aware of, I want to highlight the better parts of social media. I’ve heard elsewhere, Instagram and blogs are a way for some folks to live vicariously through someone else. I like to think of myself more a “doer” than a “watcher”, but there’s no denying that it’s going to be a long time before I set out on a round-the-world motorcycle journey, if ever. With social media, I have the ability to follow along while folks like Sam Manicom and Henry Crew circumnavigate the globe. While there’s an ongoing argument about how social media has led to the popularization of formerly remote locations, the internet offers people the opportunity to quickly find information about local destinations. Here on the east coast, I’m obviously on the lookout for adventure-bike-friendly public trails, but at the same time, when folks break down in the middle of nowhere, sometimes locals can chime in on social media and help people find the closest, reputable repair shop. I’ll take that a step further, when preparing for a long trip or an upcoming event, you have the opportunity to poll the crowd about advice for prepping your bike, yourself, or perhaps your route. Forums have existed since the early days of the internet, however today you have the ability to vet the supplier of given information because you can actually see photos of their previous experiences. This, like everything else on the internet, is not foolproof, but I will say that this is likely a reason that Facebook marketplace is taking over Craigslist, you can now “see” some background from the potential buyer or seller; information can be treated the same way.
With the constantly evolving nature of Facebook’s social media outlets, YouTube, and the emergence of TikTok, there’s no doubt the landscape of “virtual connections” is continuing to change. Prior to the COVID19 situation, many of my friends and family members had abandoned social media platforms. Per my previous comments, I’ve become fed up with certain “social media norms” (like how unfriending people is apparently offensive), but have fortunately found the silver linings through the minutia. Those virtual connections have obviously become even more valuable now that many of us currently have a very limited range of travel.
What about you? Have social media outlets made life easier or more fulfilling; or is it just filling time?