social media

Unfriended: The Dangers of Running Groups + Social Media

4 Quick Tips for Managing Your Running Group in Social Media

It came out of left field.

Before heading out for a run on a beautiful spring day, I realized I hadn’t seen any posts in my Facebook newsfeed from the local running group I had joined about a year earlier. While I hadn’t been able to make it out in a very long time because of a nagging Achilles injury following the Boston Marathon, I enjoyed interacting with other runners and getting little bits of inspiration watching them accumulate medals and revel in another trail run.

Searching for the running group, it dawned on me…

They had unfriended me.

Just a few weeks prior, I had finally been able to compete in a race again. A half-marathon under my belt and excitement bolstered, I blogged about my experience and shared it with the group.

It was promptly deleted and I then received a message from one member who wrote saying he enjoyed the post, and another from the group’s facilitator:

“I didn’t see you at the Phoenix Marathon. Will you be joining our group?”

I responded with my story about my injury; that I was getting back into running and was intimidated by the pace and the morning runs didn’t work with my work schedule at the moment (smiley emoticons sprinkled throughout). 🙂

No response.

Of the 689 members, apparently, my not showing up or properly introducing myself to one of its organizers was enough for me to get booted.

I was shocked. I felt rejected and upset.

In 20 years of competitively running (even with high school girls!) I had never experienced this before. The runners I knew were friendly, welcoming and cheerful, doped up on runners’ highs and sports gels.

I wrote her back asking for clarification, wondering if posting a blog about running wasn’t okay or if I had broken some other rule. Nothing in the rules on the group page mentioned anything about not posting articles or requiring that you pay a membership fee or show up to workouts in order to be part of the group. In fact, the message on their page says, “Please do not be intimidated or afraid to come out and meet us!”

Though that had been my exact response, she never returned a message to me encouraging me to feel otherwise.

It’s tempting to want to shut down and stick with being a lonely canal runner, I’m reminding myself that this is just ONE bad experience; that there are plenty of other runners I’ve encountered who are friendly and welcoming regardless.

I choose to run happy.

I share this story not to come across as a whiner or say “woe is me,” but to encourage awareness, especially when it comes to social media and how you choose to interact with potential group members.

4 Quick Tips For Managing Your Running Group in Social Media:

1) Be Exclusive or Be Inclusive. You can’t be both. If you choose to be exclusive, make sure you are clear about the parameters you expect for someone to be part of the group. Whether it’s a mile pace, membership dues or the fact that you must love Star Wars, just be sure to write it down somewhere and share it openly.

2) Unfriend Cautiously (and Kindly). The running community is truly a small one. I’m respectfully keeping the group’s name out of this article, but it will be difficult for me to speak highly of the group or feel good seeing them at upcoming races. It’s a small world; be careful of who (and how) you unfriend someone.

3) Share Group Guidelines. If you’re just a Facebook group of runners who interact, be sure to post what’s okay and not okay to include in the group. Whether it’s offensive material, self-promoting blogs, or trying to sell something to the group, spell it out and then encourage new members to read the guidelines.

4) Have Grace. If someone happens to break a rule you’ve stated, manage the post and message the person to remind them of your guidelines. Ultimately, don’t make it a deal breaker unless it truly is one. People make mistakes so start by giving them the benefit of the doubt.

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