I get it. You’re all sweaty and the lighting is awesome, making you look like you have “delts for dayz”. You want to inspire others with your “fitspirational” Instagram photo. You pop your arm back to get that skinny-arm look and flex your abs. You snap a few pics, apply a filter that highlights those muscles even more. You write something like “No excuses, got it done #demgainz #sweatfest #fitness #fitspiration” and hit share. You’re proud of your body, and you should be. I can see you’ve put in a lot of work.
But that’s not what I want to see all the time. And that’s not what we should see all the time.
(Before you comment I don’t give a crap what you think, stop following me on social media if you don’t want to see it, just read the whole article. You’ll see why I say this.)
Show me how you put in the hard work. Show me what’s real. Stand like a normal person who just finished a workout: exhausted, sweaty and happy.
With all these awesome campaigns recently about the acceptance of body image (in regards to women in particular, but this can be applied to men as well), I’d like to see the fitness-loving people of Instagram and other social media sites following suit. And this is why:
Several recent studies on selfies, perception and body image have shown that viewing images of others on social media sites can sometimes be no different than viewing touched-up women in magazines. One study showed that women who looked at selfies on social media sites tended to negatively compare themselves to those images. According to researcher Petya Eckler of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, “the attention to physical attributes may be even more dangerous on social media than on traditional media because participants in social media are people we know… These comparisons are much more relevant and hit closer to home. Yet they may be just as unrealistic as the images we see on traditional media.”
In another study, young women who posted “revealing or sexy” images of themselves on social media sites were viewed by their female peers to be “less physically and socially attractive and less competent to perform tasks.”
While I think if you feel proud about your body, don’t give a crap what anyone thinks and want to show it off then go for it, but I have to agree with researcher Elizabeth Daniels, an assistant professor of psychology who studies the effect of media on girls’ body image, who suggests that we should select social media photos that “showcase identity rather than appearance, such as one from a trip or one that highlights participation in a sport or hobby.”
“Don’t focus so heavily on appearance,” Daniels said. “Focus on who you are as a person and what you do in the world.”
If you’re a fitness competitor or model and posing is what you do, that’s fine, pose away. If you want to pose all sexy-like and post it to social media sites, that’s fine, too… but consider posting some unfiltered, un-posed, real selfies as well, for the reasons mentioned above.
I’ve never been a huge fitness-selfie person myself. I like posting photos of my friends on epic runs in beautiful scenery, but can’t bring myself to post workout selfies of me in a sports bra and shorts. I’m proud of my body, but I don’t feel like a sweaty, sexualized post-workout selfie is motivating anyone. I think that pictures of me running with my friends on beautiful trails or photos of us doing yoga is much more motivating to get someone up, out and active.
So here’s a challenge: Next time you’re about to pop that skinny arm or apply a photo filter, just smile and take a photo of your true, beautiful and happy self. Tag it #realgymselfie or #realworkoutselfie. Let everyone see who you really are as a person and what you do in the world.