Here's my initial thoughts on it in my comment in response to Nicole, who pointed out that maybe people are simply trying to engage others into communicating and maybe also showing that they are part of the community.
The main function of Twitter is "one way bursts". "LOOK AT ME!"
Gary's right that my immediate thought I had on your comment (other than what I just said about Twitter) is that, yes, it can be to elicit communication, like "look at my brand new bitchin' Camaro!" The expected response (communication) is positive reinforcement. You can see this when the goal is thwarted when a comment/response isn't just a gushing "attaboy!" God forbid if you question a workout: "You just did a 30 mile run with 9,000 ft of climb a week before your goal race? That doesn't seem to be smart training." Suddenly, the initial boast is tarnished and the boaster becomes defensive.
The question of whether what we discussed was in a positive or negative light is puzzling. It's simply an observation that ultrarunning has blossomed in conjunction with the blossoming of fluid social connections (internet, blogs, facebook, twitter, instagram, etc, etc.). And, I think, it's not only helped make ultrarunning seem [more] ordinary but it's changed the population of the sport from (speaking in general here) people who did it for the purity of the experience, e.g. Ed the ultrarunning physicist in Michigan in 1992, to people today who seem to often be motivated by what people will think of their exploits/achievements.
When I started running ultras and nobody in my social or running circle (and I had a running club I founded with over 700 members over a 4 year period!) ran ultras, I have to admit that I was partially motivated by the: 1. uniqueness - being different and 2. the praise from my peers for running long distances. Those probably made up 10% of the motivation at that time but they were clearly important to me. Whenever I've thought about DNF-ing a big race, one of the concerns are that I'll have to publicly acknowledge the failure and that fear of showing weakness to the world has helped to pushed me to finish races.
As I said, I'm generalizing. I know ultrarunners who have absolutely zero interest in people knowing about or providing accolades for their ultrarunning exploits. Kevin Rumon is a prime example. Anyone heard of him? Top 10 at Western States three times, 6:39 at American River 50, 3:54 at Way Too Cool 50k, ran Leadville 100, Wasatch 100, won Miwok 100k, just ran 4:05 at WTC50k three months ago at 52 years old. No blog, no twitter, no facebook, no boasting, enjoys talking about the sport but not his accomplishments. He got into it and does it for different reasons. There are many people out there like Kevin but we don't typically hear about them for obvious reasons. He never moved into the public forum or put up his electronic billboard.
My observation (neither intended as positive or negative or judging) is that people get into ultrarunning and are driven to do certain distances because they feel people are watching and they want to be impressive. They may say that they got into it and do it for personal challenge and that may certainly be part of the motivation. But they also thrive on and are pushed by the ego and praise from others. My guess is that if you took away many people's electronic billboards - FB, Twitter, Blogs, etc. you'd see a shift in many of their running lifestyles, training, race schedules, and running gear. The influence, motivation, and self-image is much different when no one is looking.
AND happy birthday to my best little friend, Pippit, who turns 12 today. He wandered into my life when he was just 12 weeks old and we've shared a lot of life together. Thanks for these last 12 years, little buddy.
|"Birthday walk, please and thank you."|