by Ben Heller
(continued from home page)
There are plenty of us in the running community who are supportive and keep to ourselves. But when you log onto the digital sphere it becomes a UFC cage match. I am a believer in the anonymous jerk theory which states that when you typing behind a phone/computer screen you are not held back from saying truly awful, hurtful, and confrontational things. We say things over the internet that we would never even think to say in a face-to-face situation. For example, if a NFL player makes a major mistake in a football game they are normally flooded with hate mail, including threats of violence and death over a game. Maybe you need an extra sentence to realize how crazy that is. That player didn’t steal your money, sleep with your wife, hurt your child, yet you just threatened to kill him for dropping a ball in a game that has no relevance to your personal life.
Most of the drama I see in the running community takes place in the digital arena. But since we are a digitalized society, we spend most of time in the e-sphere when we are not pounding it out on the roads. When you meet most of these people in person, they seem pleasant enough. It’s not like they scream obscenities and insults while they are running, driving, or whatever they are doing when not on their phone/computer. But once you get them behind a screen, out comes the monster in them.
So why is it that those of us who share a common passion fight as if we were in high school? It’s like each major group is a clique. There is a clique of the popular kids. There is a clique of the slightly less popular kids. Then there are the rest of us. Now not everyone has complete disdain for each other, but for groups of adults it’s an astonishing pattern of behavior.
Runners like the rest of us come in a wide variety of flavors similar to ice cream. There are people like me; we will call them mint chocolate chip, who have a big and bold personality that leaves a sharp taste. Of course you have the run of the mill vanilla personality who are pleasant, slightly sweet, and don’t cause trouble. Strawberry being the closest to blood color is the instigator; they are always looking/ready for a feud and have long lists of enemies. As in a Stewart’s shop there are other flavors there as well that I am leaving out. When you mix them into the sundae of life you can get some amazing creations where the flavors come together in something incredible. Sometimes, however, the flavors come together in a storm where they try to outmatch each other and you get the kind of ice cream creation that goes right into the trash after one spoonful.
There probably isn’t an all-encompassing solution to this issue. We are all human beings at the end of the day driven by different desires. We live in a wild and crazy time where the social norms we grew up with have been replaced by a new reality. We have a president who sends out insulting tweets like a 12-year old boy. We have terrorists who live to kill instead of living to let live. We have those who seek to dominate other’s thoughts with a one-size-fits all approach where if you have one minor disagreement all of a sudden you are a terrible person. There is little doubt in my mind that the drama I see in the running community is just a microcosm of the world around us. We as runners have to accept this reality because we do not have the power to change the thought patterns of our society around us. But we do have the power to change how we treat each other as runners. We all have a common goal in running and that is to be successful however that definition fits the individual runner.
From my perspective as a society we are devolving and not evolving. Maybe one day in the distant future, we will achieve a higher level of understanding, compassion, and intellectual awareness that reveals just how truly silly our society was in the mid to late 2010's. Based on what I observe today we as humans will either be long removed from the earth, or we will keep spiraling backward until we grow hair on our bodies and go back to being apes.
Visit Ben Heller's blog at www.bhells88.blogspot.com