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.
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.”
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.
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.