Is it conceit to tweet your feats?
We’ve all heard that old philosophical question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I won’t even try to answer this given the necessity of thereby addressing issues of unperceived existence, the unobserved world, and reality. My reality is that’s all well beyond my capabilities for philosophical analysis. I don’t go much deeper than pondering what if there were no hypothetical questions? Or what was the greatest thing before sliced bread?
On first hearing the forest question, I didn’t get much past the mystery of how’d the entire tree actually fall over by itself. However, if one were to analogize this query to the sport of running, the question might be “If a runner sets a personal running record in the forest and no one else is there, did it really happen?” In our present era of ubiquitous social media, the answer is undeniably “Of course, you Twitterhead. Everyone would know within eight seconds!”
That’s because today’s runner is adept, as well as interested, in letting everyone know about his or her wonderful running accomplishments. Social media has not only provided terrific new verbs, including tweeting, blogging, texting, and podcasting, but it’s also given runners the ability to quickly disseminate their results and race photos. I may be one of the remaining 14 people in North America without a personal Facebook page, but I do recognize the benefits of certain elements of social media. However, I’m not the type who is compelled to let people know I finally cooked a soufflé without it sinking, let alone communicate my great training run or race result. If I were that runner in the woods, no one would know of the stellar running performance unless I advised a relatively uninterested chipmunk on the way back to my car.
Perhaps this all stems from my first marathon, which occurred when I was 17 years old. That race was much different from today’s mega races. It had fewer than 100 runners, about eight spectators (if you include the two stupefied park maintenance staff wondering what in the name of insanity we were doing), a couple of meager aid stations, and no finisher medals or the other amenities so common today. The only people aware of my performance were the ones within earshot of the bellowing guy with the megaphone who announced the names and times of runners as they crossed the finish line. This was well before today’s ability to track runners by their race chip and have not only finishing times automatically sent via cell phone texts but also various split times along the racecourse. Perhaps someday they’ll have tracking ability so that someone following my progress might receive a more descriptive text saying, “Bottomed out at 21.3 miles. Going to be a death march from here on out. Have pity on him. It’s not pretty.”
Certainly I shared the result of my first marathon with my immediate family and a few close friends, but I didn’t feel compelled to broadcast it beyond that point because the achievement was personal and internally savored. To me, some things happen on a need-to-know basis and not everyone needs to know. I’m the type of person who is as disinclined to put a bumper sticker on my car stating something to the effect that My 3rd Grader Can Do Long Division as I am in putting on a Boston Marathon sticker. (Of course, if I did put the former on, I’m sure I’d be upstaged by someone with a sticker saying My 3rd Grader Built the Calculator to Allow Your 3rd Grader to Do Long Division.)
I’d actually be more inclined to stick a poor result on my car and maybe get some words of encouragement or sound advice.