Why I Should Quit Strava

And why I won’t

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - EDITOR’S LETTER - Matthew Pioro Ed­i­tor

When I scroll through Strava, I have to roll my eyes when I see ku­dos­fish­ing. It’s akin to the sad­fish­ing that hap­pens on so­cial me­dia plat­forms, ex­ag­ger­at­ing emo­tional dis­tress for at­ten­tion. On Strava, ku­dos­fish­ing is a ride ti­tled, “Oh man, coach said to do this 2x20 work­out, so hard, didn’t think I could do it.” It’s silly. My re­ac­tion, too, is silly. But th­ese aren’t the rea­sons I should ditch Strava. We give Strava plenty of data. In ex­change for that data, we get to use its ser­vices. That’s how Google and Face­book work. In the past 20 years, we de­cided (or we were con­vinced) that giv­ing our in­for­ma­tion away for ac­cess to th­ese apps was worth it. Yet for all the data Strava gets and what the com­pany learns about us – for ex­am­ple, in 2019, Col­nago C64 rid­ers rode far­ther, on aver­age, than own­ers of other bikes – Strava would still like us to pay for its Sum­mit fea­tures. One “fea­ture” is sim­ply the abil­ity to see the power data you just up­loaded. I’m not talk­ing about some anal­y­sis of those power num­bers. No. Just the num­bers. As a non-sum­mit user, I can’t see my power data on my phone. An­other Sum­mit user, how­ever, can. A study came out of York Univer­sity i n late 2018 that looked at the ef­fects of so­cial me­dia on 118 women be­tween the ages of 18 and 27. They filled out ques­tion­naires about ap­pear­ance and body-im­age per­cep­tions. Then they com­mented or liked pho­tos of peo­ple they con­sid­ered at­trac­tive. “The re­sults showed that th­ese young adult women felt more dis­sat­is­fied with their bod­ies,” said Jen­nifer Mills, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the depart­ment of psy­chol­ogy who con­ducted the study with Jac­que­line Hogue. “They felt worse about their own ap­pear­ance af­ter l ook­ing at so­cial me­dia pages of some­one that they per­ceived to be more at­trac­tive than them. Even if they felt bad about them­selves be­fore they came into the study, on aver­age, they still felt worse af­ter com­plet­ing the task.” I sus­pect there’s some­thing sim­i­lar go­ing on within Strava.

A lo­cal rider I know who logs an en­vi­able amount of kilo­me­tres per week ad­mit­ted he can get fomo. He said that af­ter a great 70-km ride, he might see how some other friends did at 150-km ride, which gives rise to the feel­ing that he didn’t ride enough. When he was in­jured and off the bike, he couldn’t look at Strava be­cause he felt like he was fall­ing be­hind. What sur­prised me the most is that he seemed so Zen about all the Strava non­sense, yet even with his clear view of the app and its ef­fects, they could still wear on him.

I know I’m com­plicit in all of this. I posted all my rides in Switzer­land (p.58). I posted a few of my test rides on the De Rosa Merak (p.46) be­cause I, in ef­fect, wanted to say, “Look. Cool bike. We all like cool bikes, right?” Was I ku­dos­fish­ing with th­ese posts? That wasn’t my in­ten­tion, but it might have seemed that way. I don’t know what ef­fects they might have had.

So, will I ac­tu­ally quit Strava? No. It’s how I learned Rob Britton (p.56) was bikepack­ing in Ja­pan. I then had the idea to ask him about his equip­ment. I like how I can learn about new places to ride in my area as oth­ers go ex­plor­ing. There are some con­nec­tions I have only on Strava that I wouldn’t want to lose.

I should, how­ever, prob­a­bly check Strava a lit­tle less, re­lax and j ust en­joy my rides.

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