Taking the “social” out of social media, and turning away from the screen for a more positive self image. [Warning: PG-13 language]
Social media – you know, the Facebook, Twitter, Instagrams and such – it’s both what’s good and horribly bad about the fitness and health industries.
The good stuff seems obvious. If we take the good stuff at face value – the nice photos, positive vibes and genuine people behind the screens – it’s all very pleasing and pleasant and feel-good.
Simply type in a quick #hashtag search across any of the above-mentioned platforms, and you’re on your way to bootylicious, hunky and delicious “fitspiration.” You’ll find beautiful sunrises telling you how each day is new and wonderful, and yesterday is over so just start fresh. You’ll be able to emoji high-five a number of men and women who post their personal best lifts – whether it’s a back squat, clean and jerk or bicep curl, you can tell your mates how awesome they are for kicking butt in the gym. You’ll also find tits and ass and abs. Lots of it. You’ll gaze upon many an Adonis, Venus and Aphrodite in short shorts, sports bras and optional shirt. Oh the abs you’ll double-tap.
Don’t forget all the incredible products out there. Do you need nut butter? There’s a hash tag for that. Trying a new recipe but you’re not sure if you’ll ever make it again? See how many likes it gets first. Looking for macro-friendly meals and snacks? Hashtag IIFYM, FTW.
Honestly, you can get lost in these fitness and health searches for hours and hours. (Not that I would know…) It’s easy to find inspiration, something to motivate you to do better, be better, look better and feel better. Social media certainly plays to all the senses, even touch and taste (sight and sound are given). Search long enough, and you’ll find someone touting a discount code for his or her favorite, absolute best-ever-in-the-world-top-quality brand of protein, gear, meal service or other fitness-related product or service. Everyone is a coach. No really, that chick who has thousands of followers, lost some weight eating cookies and ice cream (but LOTS of whole foods and veggies, too, you guys), and got her nutrition certificate online is obviously top notch.
The hardest part of finding all the “good” stuff is sifting through the bullshit to get there.
What social media has become is a hard pill for me to swallow. And that’s when, all too quickly, this “inspiration” turns a cheek and we see the ugly. Most people are trying to sell you something or convince you of something, whether it’s a method, supplement, service or product. While this seems obvious to me (and it’s also why I get frustrated with myself and social media), I realize it’s not as obvious to most other people. Just like that, so-and-so is influencing thousands and thousands of people with one photo or video upload and a click. Ta da!
See, even on my site own where I’m trying to promote positivity and encourage others to take their health into their owns hands – even here, in my safe space, the thought of people dolling out discount codes, giving the “best” advice and shoving their sponsored lifts, foods and shirts in our faces disgusts me. In a society that too often values quantity first, I’ve always found myself far more attracted to quality in anything and anyone I associate with. But then again, that’s the social media hook, isn’t it?
This is all a catch-22. I’m not innocent in this tornado of fitness and health sharing and staring; I’m guilty of it, too. I watch the videos of women in my weight class (and those not in my weight classes but crushing my lifts anyway). I click on websites for promoted products I think I’ll like, and I’ve even purchased a few. I look at the abs and tiny waists and beautiful faces, and then I think about how I see myself or how others might view me. I see posts about athletes’ lifting meets, competitions and photo shoots, and I’ll be damned if I don’t want that sometimes, too.
We want to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. As a woman, I want to empower fellow female athletes to feel incredible, embrace their inner and outer strengths, and celebrate their beauty and sexiness. Yet sometime during the past five years or so, we (both men and women) went from genuinely celebrating to secretly being jealous and questioning our own performances, goals and imperfections.
I’m putting an end to this in my world, right now. It has taken me some time; it’s a work in progress, as am I. But I like to think I’m on a path away from this self-scrutiny and criticism. What’s on the Internet doesn’t matter. Real life matters. What matters is you – your goals, your accomplishments, your actions, the way you see your body. I’m getting back to my roots and remembering something my mom used to tell me all the time when I was little (OK, last week): what others think of you doesn’t matter.
I had a realization today, and it was a big one. I realized I’ve been living in fear of not being good enough. Not good enough for whom? No one I could actually name. Of course I want to be good enough for my husband, my family and friends; I want to do them proud. They inspire me every day and have always supported me. I was thinking about the struggles I’ve been having with myself, and how I plan on participating in both powerlifting and Olympic lifting meets soon, within one month of each other. The only thing I could think was, “What will they say if I don’t make weight?” Or, “What if I don’t ever weigh [x amount], what then?” Do I all of a sudden not matter? Does my strength suddenly disappear? Are my PRs not Instagram-worthy because they’re not “THE” PRs? Absolutely not.
I had to stop and think. Who was I talking about, anyway? Then I realized it was the social media ghosts in the back of my head. The ones who are nice to look at and do awesome things, but who actually don’t matter in the grand scheme of life. In fact, if it weren’t for social media in the first place, no one would know who they are.
That’s the beauty and beast of social media – it provides a false sense of community, connection and support. Yes, we’re “connecting” with others. But is a like or a comment really a connection? The sense of connectivity is there, and relationships can certainly develop from that. But what truly matters is not what’s on the computer screen or within the app on your phone. The real people in your life who support you every day and put up with you are who matter.
Don’t get me wrong: social media is a lot of fun, and I use it all the time for various reasons. I love posting photos and thoughts and videos. It makes me feel good. I love sharing (I’m a writer, hello). I’ve always loved it, and I don’t do it for any reason other than I enjoy it. I also enjoy helping others and sharing information. At the end of the day, I’m just not one of the “cool kids,” but rather a twenty-something woman trying her best to be the best version of herself. I don’t have much social influence through these outlets, and I realize that. Lately, after observing the mental impact of social media, I’ve been a lot kinder to myself. I’ve learned not to compare myself to others no matter what. No one is where I am right now. My journey is unique to me. If nothing else, social media has helped me immensely in the mind gym.
But don’t let anyone else’s influence guide your actions and mental process in life, especially the influence of social media. Just as quickly as it’s built up, it can be erased, deleted or hacked even faster. Build your life on real thoughts in your head and concrete goals, and rely on actual humans for support. It’s the way we were meant to interact. Now Tweet that.