Assessment 3

Running and Social Media – It’s become a part of the Race

Class & Lecturer: Fiona Andreallo 12 -3 p.m Thursdays.

Student: Kate Fessey 430344222


As social media applications continue to provide opportunities to integrate the online and offline world in seamless harmony it becomes harder to isolate these experiences. The barriers between online and offline have been continuing to blur particularly with the integration of Location Based Services (LBS) into social media and mobile apps. Boyd (2012), explains, daily activities may not in themselves be “online” but because of technology and in particular mobile devices, the online is never far away (p.17).


Personally, I spend a lot of time where I don’t believe I am online because my activities are not centered on the digital, but in many of these instances I’m not really offline either. “I’m in the grey area where those concepts break down. It’s no longer about online or offline really. It’s about living in a world where we are being networked to people and information wherever and whenever” (Boyd, 2012, p.71).


Whilst studying MECO 6936 Social Media Communication, I have been training for the Great Ocean Road Half Marathon and it is only now, reaching the end of the course and 4 weeks out from the race, that I realise how social, locative and mobile media have changed my experience of running despite me realizing it.


Previously I considered running to be an “offline” activity. However it has come to my attention how incredibly intertwined my training and social media have become. Locative services, GPS tracking and social media has transformed my experiences of running, training and interacting with other runners in more ways than I had realised.


GPs and Locative services  – RunKeeper

All over the globe, location-based services such as the global positioning system (GPS), geotagging and Google Maps have become a pervasive part of everyday life (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). For me it has become a part of everyday running training, whether it is planning a new running route, tracking my performance, comparing my progress with training buddies and or sharing my success with friends.


My training partner and I used to run together everyday, but now having both moved suburbs, it is no longer as easy to run together. Instead we have both downloaded the application RunKeeper which is a GPS fitness tracking app. Runkeeper tracks statistics, progress, and applies verbal coaching. It tracks performance over time, providing a detailed history of activities. Runkeeper shares the details of each run with my training partner, and sends them a notification whenever I complete a workout.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 6.07.20 pm

Figure 1: Screenshot of Runkeeper App


Whilst I may not be physically training with my running buddy, the app ensures we are both training equally and allows us to support and encourage each other to perform at our best. We follow a shared online training plan, and can compare our workouts on a leaderboard. This shows how mobile digital devices now frame and mediate our ability to traverse, experience, share and conceptualise place (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). My training partner and I no longer need to run in the same space as our camaraderie now exists in the app which now forms our mutual training ‘place’.


New running routes can be discovered with the use of this GPS tracking technology as you can see the routes that have been tracked by other people nearby. In this way, locative services changes representations of space by adding content to specific locations (Liao & Humphreys, 2015).


Online and Offline – Blurring the Barriers

Whilst I had always considered running to be an ‘offline’ experience as running holds the allure of ‘going off grid’ by getting outdoors and away from screen time (Stahl, 2015). The RunKeeper app means that running has become highly integrated with the online world. In this way mobile media has shifted the relationship between being online and being offline, creating new types of engagement and co-presence. The RunKeeper app is a good example of how lines that mark out and differentiate the online and the offline, virtual and actual, here and there, are shifting and fading as these zones overlap and integrate with one another (Hinton & Hjorth, p. 128).

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 6.08.53 pm.png

Online Communities

As mobile media converges with social and locative technologies, new forms and practices are emerging that are especially focused on developing social connections. The development of location-based social apps, like RunKeeper, blend social relationships with geography (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122).


This application has an online social network of users that share progress, goals, training programs and mapped routes and it allows me to connect with runners in my area, that run the same track that I do and compare and contrast our workouts. In this way I have become part of an online community. The runs that I complete on my own, are now part of a greater community and to be part of a running club no longer involves running with together physically, but rather completing the same tracks that others have previously tracked on the app. Users may develop feelings of membership, influence and value in a community such as this with the increased usage experience (Hinton & Hjorth, p. 128).


Online running and fitness communities such as RunKeeper can enable mobilization in the offline world by providing a forum to organise activities in line with shared objectives. Studies show that digital communication technologies mobilise individuals who aim for common goals (Kraut, 2012). Whilst physically I run alone, I am acutely aware that people can watch my run online and because they can see the details and pace of my run I am motivated to perform at my best. This integration of the online and offline world has had a range of consequences on our relationships to place, intimacy, privacy, time and presence (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013, p. 122). A run is no longer a private, solo activity performed on my personal running loop, but it is a public activity in a shared place, which can be viewed, supported or scrutinized by others. Even when it comes to race day the app allows supporters to watch live maps of the race to track my progress as I run.

Social media means the sharing of workouts is not exclusive to those in the online running community. I can invite friends to the RunKeeper app so they can follow my training progress, and they can then offer support or encouragement by commenting or liking the activity. Further, my running activities, achievements and plans can easily be shared to Facebook and Twitter.

Online fitness communities offer individuals many benefits, such as convenience and an increased network of like-minded individuals who share relevant information, while at the same time providing different levels of anonymity and engagement (Stark et al., 2016).


Social support is paramount for success in information sharing, and is defined as the “interpersonal exchange that can make an individual feel either loved, esteemed, accepted, valued or motivated” (Stark, et al., 2016). In the case of running, as it is often a solo activity, the social support offered by online communities has made the sport a lot more sustainable and enjoyable for a number of people.


From my experience there are numerous benefits of social media on running — the community, camaraderie, training tips and motivation and I have seen first hand how technology can enhance not only performance, but the experience of running. Social Media holds us accountable, but it also sometimes advertises unattainable success that can reduce confidence and motivation. Now that I am aware of how integrated my running is with the online realm, I realise that there are few areas of my life that now exist exclusively in the ‘offline’ realm as these two concepts have been significantly blurred.



Boyd,  danah. (2012). Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle. In The Social Media Reader (pp. 71–76). New York University Press.


Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Social, Locative and Mobile Media Understanding Social Media (pp. 120 – 135). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.


Humphreys, L. (2013). Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities. Mobile Media & Communication, 1(1), 20-25.


Kraut, Robert E., et al. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design. Mit Press, 2012.


Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (2015). Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. New Media & Society,


Stahl, Jennifer. “The Technology That Created A New Generation Of Runners”. The Atlantic. Web. 22 Nov. 2015.


Stark, H., Habib, A., & al Smadi, D. (2016). Network Engagement Behaviors of Three Online Diet and Exercise Programs. Proceedings from the Document Academy, 3(2), 17.


Wilken, R. (2014). Places nearby: Facebook as a location-based social media platform. New Media & Society, 16(7), 1087–1103.



4 thoughts on “Running and Social Media – It’s become a part of the Race

  1. Hi, Kate!
    I strongly agree running is no longer private with the LBS and social media. I have same experience of using fitness apps. I always use another fitness app “Keep”. The members in Online fitness communities not only post pictures and videos to share their experience on this fitness app, but also can share their running records other social media platforms like WeChat and Facebook just by clicking the “share” in the “Keep”.

    Two mainstream social media in China, WeChat and Weibo, has the step ranking function based on LBS and health statics in your mobile devices. Because I can see how many steps in my WeChat and Weibo friends (most of them also offline friends) walks everyday, it stimulates me walk or run more in order to rank top.

    On the other hand, I feel it is a little bit scary about this advanced technology. There is no privacy because everyone can see where and when you run on those social media apps, like the screenshot you show in your article. The apps like WeChat can automatically read the health statistic on my mobile devices, and my location based on LBS if I don’t turn off this function. Another concern is that you might over exert yourself just for the fitness rank on the social media. There are lots of examples that people exercise too much and get injured because they want to rank top in the step records on the social media.

    Anyway, social media running helps us to improve ourselves with friends or strangers. Just be careful that your fitness cannot be too rely on the social media.


  2. Hi Kate!

    I am really happy to read your article about online and offline ties on social media, and use the RunKeep app as an example to illustrate. I think you find a really good example of a kind of social media app that has integrated well between the offline communities and the online network.

    Reflecting on your topic, I think it can also be considered by using the social capital concept. Fitness has become a social capital that reflects the social, culture and economic factors. It has become a trend that everyone pursues, but the goal of fitness will be different from different social status, such as gender, age and occupation. The motivation of using fitness app may also vary from different aesthetics of different nationalities, for example, in western countries, most females may prefer big butt and muscles, however, in Asian countries, people may be more likely to pursue slim figure and firm abs. Since social media has created a fitness trend, it brings up many relevant industries which leads to a large economic benefit. For example, it converts from tracking fitness record and competing records online to an actual product likes fitbit existing offline. Also, the industry of weight-loss food and healthy food, fitness centers have also been influenced by the LBS fitness app.


    1. Hey Kate,

      I love that your posts highlights the notion that in many ways we are never truly offline, but now exist in the ‘grey area’. As you have found personally, I too think this is becoming ever present in our lives, such that it is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect and be completely offline.

      I think you chose a fantastic example that showcases the positive side of GPS and locative services, which encapsulates social media’s ability to facilitate closeness and interaction. I like that you have been able to maintain a training buddy in the absence of them being in physical proximity. This is a positive example of how locative services can facilitate socialisation online.

      I like that you also point out how this app can have consequences relating to privacy. I think this highlights how the use of locative services can be worrisome for personal safety. This is also in line with the idea that by being consistently online, our lives are more public than ever. Even when we have choice over what we share, I think many feel they are safe in openly sharing personal information online, even location. Perhaps these individuals are not acutely aware the consequences pertaining to protection of personal information and safety.


  3. Hi Kate,

    That was such an interesting read. When we discussed Location-Based Services (LBS) in class, I connected the information exclusively with apps and services that we ACTIVELY use like Uber, Foodora and the geo-tagging options on Facebook, Snapchat etc. Your blog post was insightful in how Web 2.0 and LBS aren’t just a part of our online lives, but are slowly making their presence felt in the offline realm as well. I imagine that as the technologies around LBS evolve many aspects of our lives will seamlessly blend the offline and online platforms, especially in travel and location-based communities.

    The other point that really stayed with me is when you mention that you were motivated to push yourself and perform better because your fellow runners can follow and track the details of your run. I had always associated LBS, and specifically geo-tagging as a form of online exhibitionism. I’ve only ever seen people tag their location when they wanted their social circles to know that they’re in some place ‘cool’ and worthy of envy. Before pointing any fingers, I confess I’ve done the same too. So your perspective really shines a new light on the relevance of LBS. And I thank you for that.

    That being said, I do question the safety of using LBS on a regular basis. Running and fitness apps like the one you use make for great community building – specially online – but I would be wary of strangers knowing my running route and potentially using that information against me. I believe the developers of LBS should incorporate features into these apps that will safeguard the user – for example, delayed dissemination of information, and the ability to hide your running route after you’re done to maintain some level of privacy.

    Stay safe and happy running.



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