a branch after a fresh rainfall near Arrowtown, NZ
As we move farther into the digital realm--expressing ourselves through Social Media, making more virtual connections and less truly physical ones--it is often extremely hard for me to know where to draw lines. I value Social Media highly--knowing it is a powerful tool as a professional athlete that I use to connect to fans and a very wide audience. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat; these outlets allow me to express my character and opinions, they can help me to expose ideas or issues to a varying audience. They open up many doors--to ski-racing fans and kids, to sponsorships, to the eyes of those who do not or cannot travel and explore like I am so lucky to be able to do. I know that one photograph and caption on Instagram can brighten someone's day, inspire people to adventure, to stand up for what they believe in, inspire them to be courageous, to move their bodies, to do something wild, to connect to nature, or simply just to smile. Facebook is a tool I can use to keep my friends, family, and fans updated on where I am and what I'm doing. Twitter can help me bring issues I find important to light, and help spread the word about stimulating and inspiring ideas. My website and blog allow me to devise my own platform, to design and create, to post photographs and words like these, to give you a glimpse into my mind and show you another side of myself that you cannot see on the race course. I am grateful for these opportunities that SM provides, and I constantly attempt to use them to make our world a brighter, humbler, and more open place.
It is rare for me to go anywhere without a camera, without my phone, or without a journal. Having these tools makes me feel connected to other people, as I can ultimately use them to make a post and spark conversation. But...is that what it's always about? I sometimes wonder if I ever truly do anything for myself. Is Instagram an end goal, the purpose of my adventures and photos? Is my blog the final destination for journal entries? Admittedly, the answers to these questions is sometimes yes. I wish it were less often true, never true, but sometimes I take a walk because I know there is a beautiful photograph waiting to be shared. Why, if not for sharing and enjoying with others, do we take pictures anyway?
Writing a journal entry for the sole purpose of posting it for the public to read is not normally something I would do. In fact, I would be mortified if my journal entries were all published somehow--if my secrets and fears, sadnesses and childish hopes were exposed for all to see. So, okay, maybe my journal is an exception, but it is so often that I do things with a SM post on the back of my mind. This fact seems to be becoming so habitual that now the thought of a post is often subconscious--maybe the purpose of a photograph is so that I can see something/a scenery/an object from a different angle, but I know that ultimately there is potential for others to see the picture. That understanding permeates my every editing session, causing me to sometimes erase photos that I originally took for myself but would not be proud to show others. It forces me to throw away sketches, to hide shitty ceramic pieces, to over-edit some photographs in order to please other's eyes. But aren't all these 'embarrassing' works a part of who I am? They are all individual stepping stones on the path to who I will become. I should not be ashamed, and I know not everything needs to be shared, but what I do share I want to be an expression of my best self. My public image is the person I want to be. Okay, we all make mistakes...but I would say that at the given moment in time of a post, this statement is true. This is how I want to be seen, this is how I want others to interpret my being.
Why do I care what others see, what others think of me? One important reason is that it's part of my job. I am in the public eye, and although my personal audience may be relatively small (say, compared to Lindsey's), I have some sort of influence over what they are exposed to. But, am I doing this for them? Am I taking photos, creating, writing for them? Yes, and no. Perhaps sometimes Social Media is a big reason why I go out, why I explore, why I create. But if it weren't for SM, maybe sometimes I wouldn't go out. I wouldn't force myself to bring my camera. Maybe I wouldn't dive into ice-cold glacial lakes, reach the peaks of mountains--the very, tippy-peaks--, explore foreign cities, do hand-stands everywhere. I wouldn't get down on my hands and knees, on my belly in the dirt and snow, do that funny squat thing to get the shot. I wouldn't see everything I see from all the angles that I see it all from if it weren't for my camera and, ultimately, sharing photographs with others. I wouldn't force myself to write, to expand my viewpoints and ideas, to think things through, use proper grammar, vocalize my intuition and introspection with eloquence and precision if it weren't for the dialogue that I create with others.
That all being said, there is a time and place for everything. The internet is a crazy place for discovery and connection, but it is not, in the true sense of the word, 'wild.' Wildness is something you find outside, where there are no screens, where plants and animals roam and grow, and i-Phones and other devices will die much quicker than the rest of us. My computer can't live out there for long, not like this pen and paper (the original version of this post was written in my journal), and I am grateful for that.
Sometimes I have to force myself to leave my phone and camera at home, to go out on my own, or with other human beings, and make discoveries for the sole purpose of real life experience and personal gratification. I have to imprint sceneries on my mind, remember a place by it's scent, and appreciate the rawness of nature for helping me breathe, find purpose, and remember who I really am--an animal. I have to make connections with real-live humans, have a face-to-face conversation--which is a rare, desirable thing in these days of virtual saturation. I find myself yearning for physical human touch, thirsty for realness and skin, for watching another's mouth move and hands gesture in live expression. I know the intrinsic value within these physical relationships and encounters, and I hope I can always remember the importance of them. I hope everybody can.
So....although the internet and Social Media can inspire and motivate me, there is a line I need to draw for myself at times. Wildness, wilderness, exploration, physical connection, and adventure are also incredibly inspiring and more--they're grounding. Where and when do I make the distinction between SM inspired outings and some time and space to breathe, sans-gadgets, uninfluenced by posts and the public eye? I need to more often do things for myself, leave my phone and camera behind and know that the potential for something great to come of naked adventure is high, even if that greatness is simple presence and poise, or an imaginative conversation. But I also realize how appreciative I need to be of SM because of how it encourages me to explore and create. The edge of society and nature is where I delicately balance and thrive, and maintaining that composure can often prove to be a precarious juggling act, but it is within these acrobatics that I find joy and purpose.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind