Like many people, I have a love/loathe relationship with social media for the obvious, sometimes self-righteous reasons that we all can recite. Sure, we know that it's probably not good for us in the grand scheme of things, but what about when it comes to our beloved two-wheeled hobby... Is social media having a positive or negative impact on our sport?
It's a question that, admittedly, hadn't come to my mind before stumbling across (on Facebook no less) an article written by Outside's Marc Peruzzi titled 'Stop the Progression Already.' In it, Peruzzi opines that social media is at least partly responsible for an ever-increasing number of injuries and deaths in alternative sports. Kodak courage is the culprit, supposedly, and he even goes so far as to say, ''And so it went that once healthy outdoor pursuits devolved into suicide clubs.'' Strange, I sure as hell don't remember signing up for any Heaven's Gate-esque mountain bike club, and I haven't seen any Jim Jones-types in our circles yet. To be fair, Peruzzi talks about losing friends in outdoor accidents, so the subject is understandably close to his heart, and he does back up his thoughts with stats that show an ever-increasing number of rescues and hospital visits between 2007 to 2013. Now, I'm not sure how he figured out the percentage of those that were GoPro and Kodak-related, or if the numbers went up simply because the number of participants went up, but I'm assuming that he might also be assuming.
Anyway, while I wholeheartedly disagree with Peruzzi's sentiments on social media being at least somewhat responsible for more injuries and deaths, the topic left me wondering what everyone else thinks. Below, I bounce the question off a handful of industry vets, both professional and lifestyle athletes, and also weigh-in with my own thoughts. But I also want to hear from you: is social media having a positive or negative impact on our sport?
Craig Glaspell – Global Category Director - Bicycle, Troy Lee Designs
Craig ''Stikman'' Glaspell's career has seen him go from working as a shop mechanic in Redondo Beach, California, to wrenching on the National and World Cup circuits for some of the quickest racers in the around. He's keeping things a bit more local these days, although he's still working with some of the fastest racers out there as the Global Bicycle Category Director at Troy Lee Designs.
Matt Hunter – Professional Mountain Biker, Specialized
Since turning pro back in 2003, Hunter has been a major force in pushing the limits of freeriding back when no one was all that sure of how far the sport could go. Countless mind-bending movie segments (who remembers that insane gap to wallride in Kamloops?) stacked up over the years, but these days see the Specialized rider shifting his focus more towards big adventures rather than big senders.
Wade Simmons – Professional Mountain Biker, Rocky Mountain
Does this guy really need an introduction? Along with Richie Schley and Brett Tippie, Wade is one of the original pioneers of freeriding who were launching off cliffs into gravel pits and balancing across ungodly skinnies while most riders were still rocking 100mm stems and Lycra. The Godfather is still charging hard, and, luckily for us, he's also just as opinionated as ever when it comes to social media.
Lauren Gregg – MTB Marketing Manager, Fuji Bikes
While Gregg is now the MTB Marketing Manager at Fuji Bikes, it was only last season that she was chasing the Enduro World Series around the globe and calling her custom-built Ford Transit van home. And, having harnassed social media to allow fans to follow her adventures, she's also uniquely qualified to comment on the pluses and minuses of that approach.
Mike Levy – Tech Editor, Pinkbike
Levy doesn't seem to mind alternating between making friends and ticking people off with his words, but hey, you're probably doing it wrong if everyone's a fan, right? He's also bounced on and off of social media since it became a thing, mostly using it these days to upload too many photos of his dog or waste multiple hours each day looking at cars that he'll never be able to afford. He may talk a big game, but he loves social media deep down.
Guys like Wade and myself can be as grumpy and backward about social media as we want, but no amount of moaning is going to make Instagram and Facebook disappear anytime soon. There's a simple-ish solution, however: just be aware. Be aware that those photos are just the highlight reel of what is probably a relatively normal life full of ups and downs, that what you're looking at might actually be a thinly disguised ad, and that you don't need to post a photo of your adventure for it to have happened.
So, what do you think... Has social media brought our sport more positives than negatives? Do you reckon that mountain biking would be better off without it, or has it helped us in some way?