Socially Accepted Addiction.

Before I begin, I would like to add that I do feel showcasing fitness/health/exercise on social media as a negative, it can be a very positive tool to motivate yourself and can be utilised for charitable events etc – which is very beneficial. Also, what I have written in this blog is just my opinion.

So, let’s begin!

We live in a world with a lot of addictions that can be damaging to our overall health or life, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling etc. Society deems these addictions an issue and in result we stay away from them. However, I feel there are addictions that society does not condemn as issues, in fact, we showcase them on social media with pride – even though it may potentially impact others negatively.  

I have always loved being active and I have been able to achieve my own goals in sport and exercise. However, as I started to plan my 2021 ultra-endurance challenges, a very important person in my life asked me a question. They said, ‘if you were to do this challenge (running fifty miles) and no one would find out you did it, would you still want to do it?’

Now, that hit me hard. It made me question a lot, one being, why was I planning to do such extreme challenges. With this, I came to a conclusion. There are two socially accepted addictions that I feel link well with each other which can be damaging to us.

  1. The use of social media to showcase exercise and training towards challenges that in result may be detrimental to our health and to others mental health.
  2. The use of sport and exercise as a form of therapy and escapism which results in over exercise and again damages our overall health.  

These issues are ones I have fallen into and in which have resulted in an unhealthy relationship with sport, but not in the way you may think. After my ultra-marathon last year, something occurred to me. I could use ultra-endurance challenges to deal with my own troubles, as it is so extreme that it provided escapism for me.

An example being surfing. I have always been an active surfer, which to many is a form of therapy. The danger of the sport would provide me with peaks of adrenaline and in result would mean that my body and mind would be on high alert. As I reflect, I used surfing as a form of escapism to my own issues, just like many use alcohol or drugs – the difference being that my addiction was a socially accepted one.

So, I left myself with a question that interested me – is there a difference between taking a potentially harmful drug and paddling out in triple overhead waves with rocks only meters below? Now, don’t get me wrong, surfing can be a peaceful relaxing experience in small calm waves. However, that was not what I was interested in, I was searching for bigger more technical waves.

After that information it won’t surprise you that I stopped surfing after a bad accident which definitely instilled fear into me around the sport. So, when the pandemic hit last year, I was short of a coping mechanism. So, what did I turn to? I turned to yet again extreme forms of sport, but this time it was different. I was getting validation from social media to complete a goal that I was very underprepared for but yet I continued on and loved every second of it. I found my new way to fulfil an addiction being ultra-endurance sport.  

I feel being able to be aware of what you do in your life and why you do it is very important. However, you must not just consider yourself. The impact on others is in fact far greater. Showing the best version of yourself online creates unrealistic expectation on others, especially in sport.

This is not saying do not post your accomplishments, training, challenges, etc – but doing it mindfully is important.

I would like to finish with this. Never judge your own life on others, albeit it is hard these days. If you ran five kilometres in a certain time and feel great about it, don’t let someone posting their personal best be detrimental to you. When it comes to personal goals, there is no competition but….

 you vs you.

Thank you for reading.

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