The role of social media in kayaking and more generally extreme sports is a topic that has been discussed many times before. As someone who is quite active on social media this is something that I wanted to share my thoughts about. Before I start I think it is always good to have a reminder that social media is NOT the same as real life. I spend quite a bit of time on my social media/writing my blog but I spend far more time actually out on the water. I think that social media can be a great way to share with others and when used in the right way can be really positive. It does concern me that some people may feel like social media affects them or their kayaking in a negative way. I want to go over a few things that might help with this and why I’ve chosen to use my own social in the way that I do.
‘Everyone gets to go kayaking more than me’
It is important to remember with social media that it is not always representative of a person’s real life. For example it is not always clear how much time people are actually getting out on the water. I am really bad for falling for this. If I see photos of people out kayaking when I am not able to (during a working week for example) I get irrationally sad that ‘someone went kayaking without me!’ It doesn’t matter where these people are in the world or if I actually know them. If they are able to get out on the water when I can’t then the chances are that I might experience some kayak envy!
Two things to remember here. Firstly people have different lives and responsibilities. For myself, I aim to get out on the water every weekend that I can. Most people do not see the working hours I have to put in during the week to achieve this however or the sacrifices I make in other parts of my life. It is a choice I make because that is how much kayaking means to me. If I have to work 12-14 hours days Monday-Friday to ensure my weekend is purely for adventures, then that is my choice. However as this is something I don’t mention on my social media, this is a side of my lifestyle that doesn’t get seen. The second thing to remember is that people post old photos. From a weekend adventure I might have several nice photos which I post throughout the week. People love to re-post great media or re-share great memories. This is great! But it should be remembered that people do this.
Everyone is better at kayaking than me
People tend to only share their successes on social media and do not often share their failures. I have been on river trips where people have experienced many failures and later posted about their great day (myself included). And honestly it is fantastic that despite any setbacks they still enjoyed themselves and took away only the positives. I really do love kayaking with those kinds of people. But when they post about their ‘great day’, their friends assume that’s all it was. They may not know about any swims, wobbles or errors. And this does not matter in the slightest. People should be proud of their successes and post about it as much as they want. We need more positive vibes in this world! But we as an audience should not forget that social media is essentially a highlights reel and it is often not representative of what really happened.
For myself I have always aimed to keep my social media honest whilst still finding the positives. I FAIL a lot. As a person I am quite determined and when I set myself goals I am usually persistent in my efforts to reach those goals. This inevitably means a huge amount of failing occurs. Despite this I try to look for the positives and for any progress I may be making. Sometimes though the failure just needs to be accepted simply as a failure. This is something I am keen to acknowledge however so that others can see that failure is a part of the journey to success.
With typical British humour, this is shown in my social media by often being fairly self-depreciating and sarcastic about my paddling. For example on a recent trip to Scotland I paddled what should have been a fairly straight forward double drop rapid on the river Tummel. I completed messed it up. For some reason unknown to myself and my friends, in between the two drops, I had a slight wobble and instead of bracing I threw myself over. Luckily I rolled up as I went over the second drop. I then got out to re-run the rapid without the random capsize in the middle. It would have been easy to only post the video of my second run – to show my highlights. However I chose to share both videos. Accompanying the video of my first run was a joke about trying to achieve a ‘roll-boof’.
To anyone who knows anything about kayaking, the first video showed that I had clearly messed up. I had a lot of messages about the clip both in a ‘haha you beater’ kind of way and also out of genuine interest. How was I able to roll so quickly? (Practice!) What had caused me to have the wobble (being too far left). People were really pleased to see it both for entertainment purposes and to use as a discussion point. Unfortunately my sense of humour was lost on some who felt the need to let me know I was a ‘bad’ kayaker.
Fear of failure
I included the last point in the previous paragraph because this is partly why it is so important to me to share my failings. People have this idea that you are either ‘bad’ or ‘good’ at kayaking. And bizarrely some people seem to think you should only post if you are ‘good’! People see only the positives on social media and so assume that the people they are following are all ‘good kayakers’. They then look at their own failures and come to the conclusion that they must be a ‘bad kayaker’. When in reality we are all on our own journeys and experience success and failure hand in hand.
If people become too scared of failure then they stop trying and this makes me sad. I honestly have never found kayaking easy and every achievement has occurred through sheer determination and a mindset of ‘try again’. I want to share my journey with people so that they know they are not the only ones who have to make that journey! All the best kayakers that you have ever heard of were once beginners. You just didn’t see the path they took to success. Ask them though and no doubt they will tell you that path was full of failures and set backs.
I have a lot of people get in contact with me to let me know that they like the posts and the blog articles. I really appreciate this by the way – it is always good to know that my ramblings might actually be helping people! A lot of people are grateful that I am honest about my kayaking and my failures which is relatable to their own experiences. So please, next time you’re scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube videos, just remember that what you are seeing probably isn’t the whole story. And it certainly isn’t a story that you should compare your own story to.
Photos: Tom Clare