December 2, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Pierce Sullivan | Photo by Katherine Beard

Social media’s role in the outdoors has burgeoned in recent years, with influencers, professional athletes, and weekend warriors putting different platforms to use to show off their exploits. Instagram especially has become something of an epicenter for outdoor sports.

Opening my Instagram, TikTok, or pretty much any other media platform for that matter would show me a world of thigh-deep powder skiing, towering mountains, and other rather fantastic adventures. At my constant disposal is content highlighting the finest feats within the outdoor industry.

But I’m tired of it.

It is common knowledge that social media is a far cry from an accurate representation of what life is really like, but within the outdoor industry, this effect becomes dramatically pronounced. The ways in which social media portrays these activities is not only a misrepresentation, but oftentimes downright false.

Take skiing for example. As I am writing this article, Instagram is open next to me. The first post which shows up in my feed is from the Spanish professional skier Aymar Navarro. The video which he posts shows him tearing down powder-filled, untouched couloirs. The average skier will never once ski terrain like that, in conditions like that. Is this really the best thing for skiing, then, and the outdoor industry as a whole?

While it is entertaining to live vicariously through others’ content, this diminishes the true nature of outdoor sports. The amount of fun had on a day of skiing is by no means proportional to the amount of snow from the night before. In fact, the days which I often have the most fun skiing are often with the worst conditions. Yet when my Instagram feed is filled with pristine powder skiing all the time, it can be hard to appreciate the other joys of skiing.

What is so often overlooked by social media skiing, as well as other outdoor activities, is what seems to be the most important part of the sport, getting outside with friends. These sports should be about letting loose the inner 12-year-old inside of you, not spending hours trying to get the perfect shot for Instagram.     

This brings me to my favorite addition to the social media world: BeReal. This app functions as something of an antithesis to more traditional forms of social media. A notification goes off once a day, at the same time for everyone. Once the notification goes out, everyone has two minutes to post a picture of what they are doing at that instant. Users are still able to post late, but their post will be marked as late, and they are not able to see others posts until they too have sent out their photos.

This format of social media is exactly what outdoor sports need. Gone are the days of glamorized backcountry skiing missions, and in are photos of the hours-long suffer fest that resulted in those six splendid turns.

Another asset of BeReal is that there is much more control over who can see your posts and activity. Users are able to keep their audience much smaller and localized. The result of this is a newfound freedom for revealing the goofiness and antics that you are up to. In regard to the outdoors, it encourages highlighting the not so professional side of things and presents a far more accurate depiction of the appeal of these sports.

It is important to note that not everyone in the outdoor industry has always been focused on the picture-perfect marketing style use of social media. Take The Line Traveling Circus for example. This is a webisode series, now in its 15th year of production, which prides itself in “keeping skiing weird.” They often seek out poor ski conditions and small, rickety mountains all while highlighting the absurd antics they get up to along the way.

BeReal provides everyone an opportunity to have their own little “traveling circus.” It opens the door for all to showcase the weird, wacky and authentic fun which makes outdoor sports so addictive.

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