Birdie Feeling the Burn

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To all who celebrate, Happy Easter!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a big supporter of Bernie Sanders for the current presidential election. So, naturally, I follow him on social media and keep up to date with his rallies and any recent news.

I’ve been pretty busy as of late, and haven’t been able to follow him as much as would like. So when I went on Facebook yesterday and saw him post the above picture, I was basically like – wait what? And immediately went to find out the meaning behind the bird.

Here’s a video:

I’m pretty sure this is the cutest thing that has happened in recent politics. According to articles that I’ve read describing the situation, the bird in the video had been flying around the stadium of the rally for hours before Bernie appeared on stage. And when he did, the fact that the wild bird landed so calmly in front of Bernie caused an outbreak of cheers from the crowd.

Popular comments on this video include:

“Hillary Clinton: *Covers stage in bird feed before next campaign speech”

“Even nature knows who is the kindest and most sincere.”

“It’s official. This makes Bernie a Disney Princess.”

I also love Bernie’s comment – “I think maybe there’s some symbolism here.” This is funny in that he acknowledges the bird and its relationship to his campaign. Naturally, the internet is using this as a comparison to Trump’s experience with a bald eagle – the country’s national bird:

On the youtube page, people are making comments such as:

“I think the birds are trying to tell us something.”

“Donald Trump calls for complete ban on birds entering the US.”

I find it interesting how quickly the internet and especially Bernie supporters have taken this and reconstructing it into something new. For instance, one of the most popular trending hashtags on both Facebook and Twitter is currently #BirdieSanders. This makes me incredibly happy because the internet saw an opportunity for a pun and took it! Good job, Bernie fans.

The internet has also quickly created memes and drawings. In this way, they are supporting Sanders in a way that is very iconic of 2016. Here are a few examples from Twitter:

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I’ll sign off now. Have a good rest of the weekend everybody!

#BirdieSanders

Shape Controversy & Losing Weight

As the weeks go by and the end of the semester seems as close as ever, I am finding it hard to think of topics that involve an intersection of fitness or health with social media. But because it’s difficult for me to find a topic, it only means that I am learning more than I previously knew. Looking back, I am very glad that I chose fitness as my topic; not only is it something I’m passionate about, but doing so has forced me to delve deeper into it’s world – and particularly it’s presence on social media. I’ve had to reflect and really think about the social media aspects of fitness that I had previously just accepted.

Thanks to Professor Mason, I was reminded of a controversy that happened about two years ago where a woman, Brooke, who lost over 150 pounds was asked to be featured in Shape magazine in order to show her “success story.” However, while most women on the page are clothed in bikinis and the like, Shape refused to have Brooke featured on their site without her wearing a shirt. The reason for this was because she had a noticeable amount of lose skin hanging from her stomach. They required her to wear a shirt and cover her excess skin even though the other woman are able to show their stomach.

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You can find the original article, where Brooke tells her experience here.

The controversy with Brooke and her experience with Shape magazine is a reflection of a larger issue in the fitness world. Shape refused to allow Brooke to be presented with the extra skin on her stomach because that would then present an image of fitness that doesn’t meet society’s “beauty standards”. These standards are very predominant, and are very easily seen in social media.

When browsing on Pinterest or Instagram, there are numerous before and after pictures of women (and sometimes men). The before picture would represent how they looked pre-fitness (working out and dieting, typically) while the after picture is meant to be a contrast to how they used to look. It represents their progress and success. However, there seems to be a trend and criteria for an “after picture” on these social media platforms – such as a flat, toned stomach.

Take a look for yourself – A quick search of ‘before and after’ weight loss photos on google images produces a prototypical image.

The difference in Brooke’s situation is that her “after” picture wasn’t “typical” in that she didn’t have a flat stomach. What Shape didn’t realize (or maybe they do, and they are just jerks?) is that Brooke’s body is very typical and natural of a person who loses a large amount of weight (I believe she lost 172 pounds) – especially in a short period of time. By refusing to show her picture, they are refusing to acknowledge her body as being typical, as well as refusing to acknowledge her struggles and the struggle of others who undergo similar situations.

“This is the type of body they should have featured because it can give people hope. Hope that they can lose weight healthfully and even if they don’t end up with airbrushed abs of steel, they’re gorgeous and shouldn’t be ashamed of whatever imperfection they believe they have.” -Brooke

I’m glad that Brooke fought against Shape’s refusal to allow her to show her stomach in their magazine. She was fighting against a norm and fighting against their refusal to acknowledge her body as a real example of weight loss. She shouldn’t be made ashamed for accomplishing something that required extreme endurance and perseverance. I’m also glad that this became a controversy because it was thus widely read and people (hopefully) were able to become more educated on weight loss and fitness.

Social Media is Making Me Spend More

As a college student, I think it’s pretty standard to say that we (as college students) can’t exactly afford to spend extravagantly. Since I’ve always been a naturally cheap and thrifty person, I’ve been able to handle the situation moderately well. However, I’d say this extends more so to “real life” shopping.

What I tend to do when online shopping is spend forever picking items to fill my shopping cart, stare at the shopping care anxiously for a while, and then in a moment of clarity close the window. I have this internal debate of “but this dress will look so nice on me and I need it because it’ll be perfect for that thing I’m going to” and then “but do you actually need it and can you actually afford it?!” So when I finally exit the window to the online store, I try and distract myself from thinking of the items by browsing the internet. Which, of course, includes social media platforms like Facebook.

Online Shopping

So there I am browsing on Facebook seeing what my friends have been up to when suddenly – an advertisement! For the same online store I was just browsing with pictures of the same items. Just when I had forced myself to not shop – I was being shown items that would tempt me to spend money. My poor bank account.

It’s both interesting and scary that websites, social media, and the internet in general are able to track our movements throughout the inter webs. My situation with online shopping is what first allowed me to see exactly how my movements are tracked. What’s even more scary is when I realized that Facebook (and more broadly: social media) allows for tracking on all devices. For instance, if I searched an online website on my cellphone, I would get ads on Facebook on my laptop for the same website.

The connection between online tracking and social media is startling but honestly not surprising. It makes sense that these websites would track my movements – particularly those related to spending money. Money which companies want and they will do what they can to ensure that they are catering specific advertisements to their customers.

I’ve now become used these catered advertisements while on Facebook and browsing the internet, but while I am aware of why it happens, I can’t say that I am unaffected by this ingenious marketing that in a way is an invasion of my privacy.

While I lightly touched on this topic, it would be interesting to hear your comments. How do you feel about your online shopping being tracked? Do you find that it works on you?

The Negatives of Fitspo

I recently wrote a post outlining the positive role social media has in the fitness world. In summary, social media allows people to connect, share, and learn through a large and diverse community. While all of this is true, it should be noted that there are also cons to social media’s intersection with fitness.

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The fitspo community using a picture of Ryan Gosling trying to guilt you into not eating bread. (Little do they know that Ryan loves it when you eat bread)

One of the biggest negatives of social media and fitness is how easy it is for someone to develop a negative body image. Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram are flooded with an array of pictures meant to be a part of what’s called “fitspration” (also known as “fitspo”). The point of fitspo is to inspire others to work out. While there is nothing wrong with getting inspiration from others to work out, the problem lies in what the majority of these pictures consist of. Typing in “fitspo” (or even #fitspo with a hashtag) often yields pictures of women who are generally very thin (sometimes photoshopped) and tan. The pictures are sometimes captioned with a phrase meant to “inspire” your fit life. Unfortunately, these pictures send the message that this is the body you should aspire to have.

But what if your reason for working out is not for aesthetics? People have many different reasons for being fit – to be more healthy or happy, to gain or lose weight, to gain muscle, build strength or endurance, etc. The flooding of very skinny women portrayed in the fitspo community can make a person feel negatively about their body. It can also cause them to attempt to achieve said body in ways that could harm a person’s physical and mental health. This article summarizes the negatives of fitspo as “shame-inducing, objectifying, limiting ideals that keep women in their places as objects to be looked at above all else.”

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A really common Fitspo picture, basically advocating girls to stop eating to look “good.”

Before I became more comfortable with my body and lifting, there was a time when I would see the many pictures on Pinterest or Instagram of fitspo women and think – “why don’t I look like that? If they could do it, why can’t I?” It developed to the point where I would very feel guilty for eating too much or not working out hard enough. Because these women are viewed as “inspiration” or “goals”, it’s also meant to be viewed as obtainable or realistic. These pictures are sometimes digitally enhanced, which is not at all realistic. They also only show one type of body.

For these reasons, fitspo has begun to receive backlash. People are fighting back against this and are altering popular fitspo pictures into ones that are more positive and reflect the goodness of being fit and helping others. Buzzfeed created an article titled 17 Times Fitspo Was Wrong, So We Fixed It where they did exactly that.

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An edited fitspo picture taken from the Buzzfeed article mentioned above.

So I’m interested if your experiences with fitspo. Have you, like me, found it to play a negative role in your fitness journey (or to your body image)? Or have the positive aspects of fitspo helped you (such as communities formed, the sometimes more diverse images, etc)? I look forward to hearing from you!

Stay awesome, my friends.

 

Social Media: Your Fitness Partner

Social Media

Working out and living a fit life can be challenging and isolating. When you change your diet and habits and ultimately your lifestyle, it’s good to have support and help from a community. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to find people that have similar interests. In fact, with busy schedules, this can sometimes be almost impossible unless you happen to be extroverted enough to talk to strangers in the gym. I don’t fall in this category; I’m the girl with her earbuds constantly in while attempting to avoid unnecessary social interactions.

For a newbie into the fitness world, we are lucky enough in this day and age to have a constant fitness partner at our disposal: social media. To be specific, platforms such as Instagram, Reddit, Youtube, or more specific forums on websites such as Bodybuilding.com. I have personally found that these types of media are extremely helpful for people in all levels in the fitness game. They allow you to connect, interact, learn, and share with people from around the world.

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If you’re new or have questions about your routine, you can ask or search specific questions on subreddits such as /r/fitness or /r/xxfitness (a subreddit specifically for women – how cool is that!). For example, I have done this when I was learning more complex exercises such as the deadlift or squat. I have always been extremely weary of injuring myself, and getting advise and suggestions from many people helped me find the correct forms. A common practice I’ve noticed on these fitness subreddits is people videotaping themselves doing an exercise and asking for input on their form. This is especially helpful if you don’t have access to a personal trainer or anyone knowledgable enough to both know correct forms and identity incorrect forms. People would also suggest specific Youtube videos or articles that were helpful. And, by linking to Youtube, I was able to find an entire new community on another social media platform.  The linking and intersections between the platforms is interesting because you are exposed to two different types of social media interaction.

On Instagram, the use of hashtags helps people find communities. In the fitness world, hashtags such as #fitspo (which is an abbreviation of “fitsporation”), #fitstagram, and #girlswholift allow people to find others who also enjoy working out. People can leave positive comments or advise on a picture or short video which can fuel one’s fitness spirit and make them feel better about themselves.

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Meanwhile, forums on websites such as Bodybuilding.com are also great when searching for supplement recommendations (such protein or pre-workout), or for asking or searching on a topic on question. However, from my experience, I’ve noticed that the forums themselves tend to be a more male-dominated community. So to avoid an overdose on testosterone-fueled discussion, I use this website’s forum less than reddit, but still find the other features on the website extremely helpful.

While the intersection of fitness and social media can truly be a positive thing, there are also many negative aspects that should be discussed. Next week’s topic will focus on these aspects and the negative effects that come with them.

 


 

*Note about the picture used as the header:

I created this image using Canva. I found the image through a Creative Commons search. I chose this image because of its bright colors. To me, the colors seemed to aid to the strength of the picture – a woman holding a weight on her back. I also liked how the image doesn’t show her face and is not sexualized; instead, the image focuses on her strength and muscles which is essential to fitness and my topic. I chose to write my letters in all caps with a bold, simple white-colored font to add to the strength of the picture. If I had used a more frilly font, I feel as though the message of power and persistence would be somewhat hindered. I also chose to make the phrase “YOUR FITNESS PARTNER” bigger than “SOCIAL MEDIA” because I felt as though it was more eye-grabbing to the reader.

“Reimagined” Whiteness

This might sound silly, but I have a few people on my Facebook newsfeed who I basically rely on for all the new viral videos, memes, or articles. Whenever I see their name, I’m basically certain that whatever they post or share will be at least somewhat relevant to my interests. I look at them as my “woke” friends, and by ‘friends’ I mean people I’ve met at some in my life and likely no longer talk to. But that’s okay! I feel like these people and I have a weird sort of bond where even though I don’t actually talk to some of them, we still connect with our mutual appreciation of staying active and “woke” with current events.

Because I don’t follow celebrity news or use Twitter, its likely I wouldn’t even have known about this if it wasn’t for one of my “woke” Facebook buddies sharing an article discussing the issue.

Here is a link to what actually happened:

Fan to Rihanna :

In summary, this “fan” tweeted this picture to Rihanna, which shows her photoshopped as a “white person” with a caption saying that “…this is undeniable proof that the whiter the more beautiful.” Rihanna proceeded to block her and supposedly anyone else who tweeted her the picture. After skimming the “fan”‘s profile, it seems highly likely that they are a troll looking to start arguments and controversy – but it worked. The fact that others retweeted the same picture would mean that others genuinely believe it, which is both humorous and disappointing. Quite honestly, the photoshopped picture of Rihanna is creepy, ghostly, and unnatural. Also, how many White celebrities these days are actually that pale? Isn’t being “tan” now a long-standing “trend” that is being maintained throughout our society and media? – or does this “trend” not apply to people of color, whose naturally beautiful colored skin are discounted?

The original tweet quotes “the whiter the more beautiful” which is not only horrifically racist and untrue, but also perpetrates the notion that White beauty is more highly prized than that of colored. These ideologies have been around for a long time in America – with the “standard” of beauty being Western.

 

This article from 2014 is titled “5 Disney Princesses Reimagined As Caucasian”. Maybe this author was feeling left out because not every Disney princess was portrayed as white? It wasn’t enough that most of them were stereotypically White – let’s “reimagine” the rest as White too! Just like the Rihanna tweet, there are so many problems associated with this.

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The fact that this article is serious makes me want to gag. For example, under a rather ugly picture of reimagined “White” Jasmine (from the movie Aladdin) is the caption:

“This image shows us that Aladdin would have been just as amazing, if not even better, with Jasmine as a Caucasian princess.”

Um – what? “If not even better”? The implication in this sentence is basically that White is better, which is disgusting and wrong. It’s so important for children (and grown ups) to have role models and celebrities to look up to that mirror them in looks and ethnicity. It helps us feel comfortable in our own skin and better about how we are an how we look. The fact that it is acceptable to Whitewash celebrities and influential Disney characters highlights a major problem in our society. A problem stemmed from institutionalized racism, cultural appropriation and a lack of initiative from White America to address and solve the issue.

What do you think about Rihanna’s tweet? What about the “reimagined” Disney princesses?

 

 

Facebook Bringing Families Together

My mother is from Sweden, and moved here at the young age of twenty without anyone else with her. To this day, whenever I tell her how brave this was for her to do, she will laugh it off and say it was her natural independence and urge to travel. She is from a small town in Sweden with a population of a little more than 5,000 people. Naturally, she grew tired of small-town life and her desire to experience new culture and people drove her to the opposite of Sweden – Florida, a state with perpetual sunshine and palm trees. She could be tan all year-round!

She soon met my dad and they were eventually married. Almost every Summer my mom would take me and my siblings back to Sweden to visit her family and stay connected with her heritage. They were truly wonderful times of my life, and I’m thankful that I was able to go so frequently. Unfortunately, due to many factors including the rising cost of flight tickets, it’s been six years since I’ve been back to Sweden.

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Taken in July 2010.

I’m not particularly active on Facebook, but one of my favorite aspects of the social media site is its ability to maintain contact with far-away friends and relatives. In this case, despite the fact that I haven’t returned to Sweden in six years, I have been able to do things like watch my cousins’ children grow up, comment on my Aunt’s new job,  and discuss a funny video with cousin. Since almost all of my mother’s family is in Sweden, it is nice to be able to feel like I am a part of their lives (and hopefully they fill the same) despite the fact that we haven’t been able to meet in person in so long. I will admit that a large reason why I try and post some pictures once in a while is so my long-distance relatives know what I have been up to.

Another benefit is that I am able to use and be exposed to the Swedish language when otherwise I would be trapped in an English bubble. My mom and I follow Swedish newspapers and news sources on Facebook so that, like in the case of our family, we can also keep up to date with the latest happenings in “the homeland.”

For these reasons, I am thankfully for Facebook and its ability to keep people connected despite the distance that may separate you in miles. I’m sure many of you have similar stories like this – how has Facebook (or any other social media) helped you keep in contact with those that you would otherwise be disconnected from?