Writing for the Outline, Joe Carmichael, on the increasing pressure on extreme athletes to top each other with filmed and live-streamed events:
“Backcountry social media users should be challenged to consider the questions to whom and for what purpose they are constructing their online narratives,” Isaak wrote. Decisions made in dangerous situations are no longer made only by the adventurer, he said; research shows they are influenced by the people nearby, and these days, that includes Facebook followers.
The impulse to do dangerous things isn’t new, he concluded. Extreme athletes are motivated by a sense of personal fulfillment and the yearning to compete with peers. “That impulse, to figure out who we are and our place in a community, that’s a human impulse, regardless of whether you were born in 1950 or 1990,” he said. The difference today is that every adventurer is expected to produce videos and build a fanbase, and now that fanbase is always looking over their shoulder. “Now, they’re able to tell stories with YouTube and Instagram, or Snapchat, or any of the other social media tools. So it’s just the publication cycle that is changing the desire to tell our story or to compete.”
There’s this kid I discovered recently on YouTube. He goes by the name “Illsight”, is about 17, and climbs cranes in Hong Kong without any safety equipment. Part of me is, of course, absolutely amazed by his skill. Yet, I can’t help but wonder whether he’d be taking these risks if he didn’t see others doing the same thing, or putting the videos on YouTube.