As my last blog post analysed the negative traits of the use of social media, I think that it is only fair that I now mention the positive digital impact on the fitness industry. As you may know, I upload a fair few pictures on my Instagram account but don’t seem to fit into the stereotypical gym community account – where the goal of the photo might be to brag, to inspire or simply to share something about their fitness lives with friends or followers.
A Brunel University study that’s resurfacing via Business Insider, Mashable, Oxygen, and more says those who talk about diets, exercise, and accomplishments—especially via gym selfies—are typically narcissists. But scientists are now saying the actions of those who post #gymselfies and #fitness photos are having an impact on the health of their social media pals and followers – with both negative and positive consequences.
Participating in Twitter chats and joining niche groups on Facebook or posting to the same hashtag on Instagram gives you access to like-minded people. Individuals post their pictures on social media to demonstrate their fitness whether it would be a gym selfie, a screenshot of their fitness trackers or motivational quotes. This is likely to encourage each receiver of the individuals’ post to push harder or at the very least motivate them to go to the gym. A new study “Microblogging and the Value of Undirected Communication” suggests that social media interactions can help decrease negative emotions and boost well-being.
Another argument towards the gym posts could be the notion of the perception of the ideal body types. “Exposure to this very narrowly defined viewfinder of beauty profoundly changes how girls and women think and feel about their own bodies.” The Posts can emphasise and raise awareness of societal issues that are somewhat neglected in contemporary society. In the short term, this is distracting and promotes shame and anxiety and in the long term, it promotes eating disorders, depression, and sexual dysfunction. Whilst some people may argue, the influence and effectiveness of the posts are subjective I prefer to look at it from each individuals perception. If you are envious of other people doing well and can’t get motivated by their success, then, of course, these posts are going to have a detrimental effect. A good body is a good body, there is no need to compare yours to someone else’s. Be happy with what you got.
Purposely or not, I have personally witnessed these individuals create a sense of an online community that provide huge positives for themselves and the image of fitness. For each person that uploads gym pictures to Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook etc it provides a sense of purpose to show off their hard work that they have been putting in constantly going to the gym. Researchers found this to be true for people who are more likely to engage in “upward social comparisons,” or look at themselves in the light of people whom they aspire to be like. The people that participate in these posts also pose a healthy competition for all of their other followers. Of course, not everyone wants to scroll through their timelines and be ambushed with hundreds of gym bodies, but there is a simple solution if that’s not for you; simply unfollow that person.
In our society today, fitness models on Instagram with a large enough following can even get sponsors and endorsement deals. The term Instagram model was coined after the popularization of the app. Instagram models can turn their interest into an actual career by working with health food companies, gyms, and fitness equipment companies etc. but the fact that Instagram is capable of turning people’s hobbies into well-payed jobs just sums up how digitalization is impacting the fitness industry.
In this day and age, it is hard to scroll through the internet and not end up on YouTube. Another huge impact (maybe the biggest) the digital world has on the fitness industry is through the implication of fitness tutorial videos. 1,300,000,000 or 300 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. A high percentage of this number is likely to be aspiring fitness channels that look to show how to perfect each exercise in order to keep fit and healthy. They specialize in providing a full workout from the comfort of one’s own home almost acting as a personal trainer, just thousands of pounds cheaper.
For next weeks blog, I will be taking a closer look into the way in which fitness applications stormed through app stores. I will create a list of my most used fitness apps, noting their best and worst features.