The popular fitness app’s new direct-message feature has users split between titillation (a new place to flirt!) and trepidation (a new place to flirt …).

New Features on Strava Spark Conversations and Concerns

Connect for Inspiration or a Jogging Date?

Strava, the popular fitness app boasting over 100 million users, recently introduced a direct-messaging feature, urging users to “coordinate adventures” and “connect for inspiration.” However, the response has been diverse, with some envisioning a platform for workout-related flirting.

Olivia Witherite, a 30-year-old Brooklyn resident, working for a startup, sees the feature as a potential tool for post-run connections. She contemplates using it for a different kind of “risky DM,” considering the app’s daily use for sharing marathon training updates and cheering on friends.

Strava: Fitness Tracker Meets Social Media

Since its inception in 2009, Strava has blended workout tracking with a social media platform for fitness enthusiasts. Witherite isn’t alone in her musings, as social media echoes with jokes about Strava replacing dating apps. TikTok running influencers have even crafted Strava-specific pickup lines like, “Your pace or mine?”

From Meet-Cutes to Safety Concerns

While some users foresee the possibility of a “meet-cute,” concerns about online harassment are also surfacing. In Noah Kiernan’s running group, comprising over 20 Strava enthusiasts, the feedback has been largely negative. Some members, particularly women, contemplate disabling messages to avoid inappropriate DMs during workouts.

Kiernan, a 27-year-old financial technology professional in Manhattan, notes the prevailing sentiment that Strava wasn’t intended as a dating app. The potential privacy risks also worry users like Witherite, who expresses concerns about strangers knowing her location based on her posted running routes.

Balancing Privacy and User Experience

Strava’s past issues with location data and privacy are not forgotten. In 2018, concerns were raised about potential exposure of military bases, while the tragic case of cyclist Moriah Wilson in 2022 involved her killer allegedly tracking her through the app.

Zipporah Allen, Strava’s chief business officer, acknowledges user demands for a messaging feature and emphasizes the company’s commitment to privacy. Users can now choose message settings, controlling who can contact them. The company also introduced blocking options to enhance user safety.

“We wanted to be really careful with making sure we preserved what makes Strava such a safe place of belonging,” says Allen.

Community Trumps Risks for Dedicated Users

Despite the concerns, many dedicated Strava users argue that the sense of community the app provides outweighs potential risks. Arianne Ontiveros, a 22-year-old resident of El Paso, highlights the social emphasis that prompted her switch to Strava. For Ontiveros, meeting like-minded individuals within a running community is worth navigating potential challenges. The already-flirty public commenting feature leaves her intrigued about the possibilities of direct messaging.

As Strava continues to evolve, users grapple with balancing the desire for connection with the need for privacy and safety.

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