The Impact of Social Media on Freediving

By: Talya Davidoff

First and foremost, I wanted to say I hope everyone is healthy and safe and not losing your minds during this circus of a pandemic. When approached to write this post, I decided that I’d face this ugly truth and try to pick it apart in a meaningful manner. I find that personally, I’ve seen a very clear split in people as the months have passed.

The two groups are as follows:

  1. Those who have compassion and understanding of the need to be sensitive as we all try and gracefully move online. 
  2. Those who have decided that the move online is a perfect opportunity to share their views in a callous and belligerent manner.

Now, you might find yourself as a third party who has decided that social media is sick and have moved off it entirely (which I applaud), but for the sake of this article, I will address the two former parties listed. 

I remember back in March when I ran my first remote academic course online, feeling overwhelmed by the lack of connection I felt between my students and myself. It was foreign to me and I was not entirely sure if my students felt like they gained anything from it. I believe that many of us experienced this in the beginning when we were adjusting.  As time went on and we all settled into the new norm, I, like many others, wanted to share my life and my training with the world in the hopes that someone out there could learn from it. 

I then entered a health and fitness competition where I was able to post my daily results and process to becoming a better version of myself online, and guess what I got….

Group 2 of the above mentioned. People who told me I didn’t look like a woman, or that I looked unhealthy and sick… I will note that I did not know these people personally. Also of note, these people were in NO WAY QUALIFIED to hold those opinions of me.

Using psychology with freediving students 

I can tell you as someone who is fairly level-headed and confident in myself, I was struggling psychologically with these comments…Which now leads me to the freediving part. As a Freediving Instructor, it is my job to psychologically profile my students in order to help them reach their goals in the safest manner possible. We have been trained to deal with every type of student personality and we would have failed our courses if we missed it. I have students who need to be left alone during statics, and I have students who need a military level of commanding to get through statics. That is one of the beautiful aspects of freediving. It caters to each individual’s needs. 

Sharing on social media is a part of the job 

Part of our job now is to share our experiences on social media as a method of advertisement to run businesses. This is, from what I have seen, the start of the downfall of compassion and intrigue and the rise of the “keyboard warrior”. 

I can almost hear the naysayers huffing and puffing at this point, so I will elaborate. Each student signs a media release form when taking a course, which allows us to share content for general stoke. But, instead of asking meaningful questions or airing concerns in private messages, the keyboard warrior slaps his uneducated opinion on a post. 

Think about the student… 

These comments don’t affect us as instructors. We are trained in mental toughness and can brush this off in a heartbeat. However, think of that student. Think about how someone they don’t know, handed over some belligerent mindless comment, which will, going forward, affect them and their relationship with freediving. 

The keyboard warrior forces the student to apply self-worth to a freediving activity and has the luxury of holding no accountability for it.  

I felt the weight of the world crashing down on me after writing that previous sentence. The fact that someone can project his or her warped relationship with freediving on someone else blows my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a lot of unsafe or incorrect techniques out there online. I believe there is information that shouldn’t be available to uncertified divers. People watch videos of high-level competitive athletes and assume they should do the same in order to be able to dive.  This, however, does not warrant your unsolicited advice on a social media platform.

What you can do 

Freedivers should be able to post their progress and adjust their technique and feel safe in doing so. I urge you, going forward, if you see something online that you personally don’t like, remind yourself that there is a person behind that post. A person with insecurities who is trying to better their freediving. Remind yourself that your opinion could be the difference making or breaking the next world record freediver… you don’t know that person and you don’t understand the circumstances.  

Comedian Tim Minchin addressed a graduation and said the following:

“Define yourself by what you love. We have a tendency to define ourselves in opposition to things. Stop being against something and start being for something. “ 

Maybe if we all worked harder to find compassion and treat each other with kindness, we could bring freediving to the world as a sport that is inclusive and enjoyed by those who don’t judge each other.

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