Clinging to Authenticity in a World Drowning in Social Media

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By Morgan McGlashon


There is an expectation in the outdoor industry that every mountain sports photo looks easy, fun, and flawless.

Mountain athlete social media posts brim with giggles and smiley faces and stunning mountain photos and the obligatory cute caption about how great the day was. Every week brings new adventures in beautiful new places with bounds of excitement and youthful freedom the rest of the world deems unattainable.

I am guilty of this too.

It is easy to share an aesthetic photo with a fun caption and call it good. My sponsors are pleased, friends are jealous, and people around town are overly impressed with this seemingly perfect life. It’s easy to create the image that I have been having an incredible time just frolicking in the mountains, traveling the world, and finding amazing skiing.

What’s missing with these made-for-image polaroid shots are the rollercoaster emotions and scary moments which make spending time in the mountains so incredibly raw.

In truth, I’ve spent a lot of mountain time being super gripped, unsure, and unconfident. I’ve been nervous walking in crampons, been scared above exposure, and not known some basics like how to build an anchor or ski on belay.

Many times I’ve stood on top of lines unsure if it went through and lacking the confidence to ski them even if they did.

I have been in a lot of places where I was unsure whether the conditions were safe enough to be skiing and lacked the experience to go off anything other than my instinct.

But when I go to post the post-trip glamour shot on Facebook after the fact, I certainly don’t caption it “This was taken whilst on the edge of shitting my pants and just before we were nearly killed by a wet slide.”

Or ….

“We had a wonderful day skiing, but I’m in a real pickle now because I missed a week of work and I’m super broke.

Mountains have their dark sides, too.

I am 21 years old, and right in the heart of this online generation full of misconstrued Internet personas and deteriorating authentic identities.

In a constant stream of photos, post feeds, and snaps portraying just how great our lives are, I frequently find myself feeling like I am hiding the whole story.

I think it is all too common to see a photo of someone else skiing a peak and feel envious of their adventures, but not put much thought into what it actually took to get there.

This artificial social media world diminishes to effort, skill, and determination required for many of the feats that athletes are accomplishing and fails to portray the deeper truths of how it actually happened.

Whether things went incredibly well or not, it’s tough to get twenty words below a pretty photo to encompass an entire spectrum of thoughts, feelings, decisions, and outcomes, leaving people to make their own assumptions and forget that it isn’t the whole story.

Regardless if a post embellishes a story or deflates it, I often come away from social media feeling frustrated, jealous, or insecure rather than inspired, confident, and content.

I am not sure how to change this relationship.  It’s not to the point where social media actually diminishes actual experiences in the mountains, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. My time in the mountains is much deeper than a pretty Snapchat post. Much more complex and authentic than a giggly, smiley, Facebook update.



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