I PERSONALLY have a love-hate relationship with the online world. Social media is a great connector and can be a great confidence giver. It allows you to share your success and many of us relish the positive feedback from our friends or followers. However, as quickly as social media can give us a confidence boost, it can also take it away.
Social media is undoubtedly a distraction in our daily lives and many hours can be lost scrolling and searching. Many riders use it as a distraction before they jump to ‘escape’ the moment, alleviate stress or pass the time. Unfortunately, this often has the opposite effect. The brain is receiving enormous levels of data from the information offered online. It’s a sensory overload and can often leave the brain feeling exhausted and over stimulated.
Gold medal-winning show jumper Adrienne Sternlicht talks openly about her use of social media. She deleted all of her apps during the World Equestrian Games to minimise distractions. She said this was necessary to stay in the moment and to focus on what was in front of her, not what others were doing. Sternlicht still goes through phases of deleting apps when she feels like she’s not as ‘in the game’ as she should be.
Olympic champion Laura Kraut, while enjoying social media says she would never consider using it before jumping a class – riding is her job and that’s where her focus should be.
From my perspective, distracting yourself before competing can be a useful thing to do if you have a long wait ahead of you. It can prevent you from overthinking or getting stressed. However, be smart about your choices. Steer clear of overstimulation and opt for watching a movie on Netflix or one of your favourite series.
These very small changes can have huge impacts on your mental performance. The second issue in relation to social media is the emotional impact it can trigger. No one ever feels better after spending half an hour on Instagram or Facebook. It causes us to compare our daily lives to the highlight reel of others.
Often riders describe feelings of inadequacy, self-consciousness and even self-loathing having looked at others’ edited and filtered photos. It can put pressure on us to create our own highlight reel – whether that’s to look or dress a certain way or perform to a standard deemed social-media-worthy. Focusing on others’ social groups also effects younger people who worry they aren’t having as good or as fun time as their friends appear to be and this can bring great feelings of isolation or loneliness.
While this sounds quite dramatic, next time you’re on Instagram, check in with how you actually feel. It is jealousy? Are you subconsciously criticising others or yourself? These emotions and thoughts are not helpful on show day, save it for the lorry home.