A rather intense and irascible runner I know recently introduced me to a loose, unofficial network of blogs that, at least in theory, address running and exercise but focus more than anything else on “healthy living.” I have begun to understand why this runner spends a lot of time being rather intense and irascible. Picture a gay vegan atheist pro-choice fitness buff deciding to test his mettle by eating lunch for two weeks straight at a McDonald’s in rural Alabama in the company of vocally bigoted pot-bellied godbotherers, and imagine how he would feel at the end of those two weeks.
I’ll say up front that I have nothing against people who blog about what they eat and why they think it’s the solution to everything, or people who blog about running no matter how little of it they actually do, or people who blog in a way intended to describe positive changes of any sort that they have made and wish to share with others. Even if the primary goal is attention-whoring and not making the world a better place. I certainly don’t claim to blog to improve anyone’s life, and by definition blogging is generally a “you’re entitled to my opinion” endeavor if not an outright solipsistic one.
This, however, doesn’t mean that I can always appreciate other people’s motivation. Sometimes, the results are just strange.
Having been sent a link to a “healthy living” running blog, I decided to Google the term “healthy living running blog.” I then checked out a number of the top 20 or 50 or 100 results. I quickly determined that these blogs share a number of commonalities other than their subject matter, which alternates between discussions of “great” foods (the bulk of the posts) and token chatter about running (the minority of the posts). These include:
- A gross excess of pictures — of the bloggers (all of them female), the bloggers’ boyfriends and family members, and plates of food
- Evidence of extreme undertraining
- Equating talking about food all the time with healthy living
- Overestimating the role of blogging, especially their own
- TMI about significant others
- A startling number of regular commenters
- A startlingly low awareness level and attention span among these regular commenters
- A history of being overweight and seeming to think losing weight entitles people to mass recognition
- Horribly mundane personal histories, given in exhaustive detail
- An obvious craving for attention, as evidenced by “CONTACT ME!” buttons scattered all over the site
Again, no breaches of Netiquette (not that I care), nothing nasty, nothing worth mocking in a purposeful and methodical way, a la Gribbit and his angry low-wattage ilk. Just weirdness. For example, on most running blogs I’ve read, if someone stated six months in advance that she was training to qualify for a certain marathon in a part of the country where people talk in a strange and grating accents devoid of the letter “r,” then decided to jog the qualifying race with a friend an hour slower than her stated goal time, there would ensue a flood of comments about this decision. They might be carefully couched, but people would at least acknowledge the inexplicable abandonment of an ostensibly important goal. But on these “healthy living” blogs? Nope. No one says a word when someone’s training for a multi-hour race fails to exceed an average of 12 to 15 miles per week. No one interjects when a planned 20-miler morphs into a day spent preparing organic canapes and hanging out with the BF’s parents. It’s not so much a Pollyanna-choked environment as a Panglossian one: at any given time, no matter what, it’s all good, even when it clearly sucks. There’s always something to smile about.
The only thing I can think of to explain why posts on these blogs routinely attract 50 to 100 comments is that there are a lot more frightened people than I ever realized. People who are genuinely afraid to test themselves in any way and make heroes of those with the courage to post before-and-after pictures of themselves (even when it’s not always clear which is which). Obviously this stuff keeps a great many people going, but I’ll take my thirst for controversy and high-octane shit-stirring over lowest-common-denominator feel-good stuff. I guess some people overestimate how compelling their lives are. Until you’ve gotten a homeless person drunk and accidentally helped him land in jail in the process, you’re probably not that interesting. (That’s a story for another day, or year.)