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?
Really good article, I was just talking to Jenna the other day about something similar in the motorcycle world where some people post pictures of previous rides in an attempt to show that they ride everyday or are always going on adventures. For four years my minor was marketing with an emphasis on the digital and social media side, I had grand visions of working for a large outdoors product company or offering consulting services to smaller businesses. After an interesting internship I quickly realized that it wasn’t the world for me and how much was fake compared to real.
I’m also in the same boat with Facebook as of lately and this whole pandemic has shown that their are a lot more medical and economic experts out there then any of us ever knew about. As for IG I completely agree with you on it, when I owned my KLR their were quite a few times where I had to help out some new KLR riders and that’s kind of what started my blog. While I have never physically met any of you guys I did use quite a few people for knowledge and advice before I got my Tiger. I’m sure at times I was annoying as hell to Kamrad and Jenna when I bombarded them with questions about Tigers, modifications, and using cast wheels off road.
Social media is very interesting a complex world that is constantly evolving just like a lot of our blog and postings as well as our crashes and drops…which I’m dreading on the dropping the Tiger since she’s a curvy girl that’s a little heavier then the KLR.
I’ve done enough damage to the Scrambler at this point that I don’t want to take it further if I can help it. The scars she wears and the ones on the Honda are character now. I’m proud of the adventures we’ve had together and look forward to more. At some point you’ll knock the new off and I imagine you’ll adopt the new mantra. I hate “breaking the seal” on a new bike. Stings a bit.
That’s true, dropping the Tiger is inevitable…I dropped my KLR the first day I got it and dropped it plenty of times over the years
I think a lot of us have an uncomfortable relationship with social media. Facebook used to be a place to see what friends are up to. It’s not anymore.
I guess for me it’s finding the balance.
What do you mean by balance?
For me its about just using it to catchup and seek assistance/information without getting sucked into it and living my life behind the screen and through others.
Good call. Keeping up with Army buddies is probably what keeps me on FB… and a lot of killing time. 🤣
It’s a bit like the news at the moment. You need to watch enough to keep up-to-date and understand restrictions etc but not too much to drag you down and make you feel like crap.
Nailed. That quote needs to be framed.
Great article. I was a late coming to all social media outlets. Not starting my Facebook Page until 2015! Although wary at 1st, it has changed my life for the positive. I started as an introvert loner and now have ‘friends’ across the globe (not just virtual ones lol). I have a point to keep all my content original and avoid fake news and people as much as I can. But I suppose you could say I’m one of those people when you meet in person is still a bit shy and stammering. But that’s not because I put on a different persona on social media, I’m open, honest and share the good, bad and ugly. But people still easily make assumptions. I now live in New Zealand after moving here from the UK and I often get people say ‘how lucky’ we are. Yes we are but there is an assumption that it just happened because we are lucky. Despite writing about how hard it has been to walk away from everything and everyone we know and love. Facebook can be a great platform if used and watched correctly. Keep it real, keep it honest and where possible, avoid the bullshit!