Love it or hate it, you’re most likely on it. Social media is an extension of who we are. It’s how we connect with friends, catch up on the news and entertain ourselves. Increasingly, it’s where we go for fitness inspiration. While social media can offer great encouragement for your training through new trends, motivational posts and free workout resources, it can also sabotage it. Below are five ways that social media may be sabotaging your training, as well as how you can curb it.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA IS A HIGHLIGHT REEL
First and foremost, social media is a highlight reel. It’s a compilation of an individual’s best moments – their stellar workouts, healthiest meals and picturesque vacations. Rarely do our online profiles show our low points – our bad workouts, unhealthy snacks and boring work days. Each post is a snippet of a moment that can be edited to fit a certain narrative, rather than reflect the true nature of one’s experience.
This is social media’s foundation, and its filtered nature can seep into our subconscious. As you scroll through your feed, you may notice certain thoughts creeping in – wondering how people can look this fit, this happy and this healthy. If you primarily follow fitness influencers, you may begin to assume that all they do is work out and look good for the ‘gram. You can begin to grow envious of the carefully curated lifestyle that you see on-screen, but you’re not seeing their flat tires, doctor’s appointments and trips to the DMV.
Keep this in mind as you scroll through your feed, and maybe unfollow influencers whose posts seem extremely crafted. Follow people who share more authentically and aren’t afraid to post about their terrible workout, diet slip-up or average day.
2. PLAYING THE COMPARISON GAME
Because everyone is presenting their best self online, posts can quickly lead us to believe that our own life and training doesn’t stack up. If you’re constantly seeing influencers breaking their personal bests in the gym while you struggle to slug through your new workout regime, it can be defeating.
Measuring yourself up to strangers online isn’t a good motivator, and it’s often an unfair comparison. It can lead you to underestimate yourself, doubt your recent wins and set unrealistic goals based on someone else’s achievements.
As once said, “Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty.” Maybe you’re new to powerlifting and the influencer that you follow has done it for a decade. Perhaps cardio comes easier to your favorite influencer than it does for you. Everyone’s at a different stage of their fitness journey, and was born with different strengths and weaknesses that – more often than not – can’t be willed or worked away. Striving to achieve what someone else has is a slippery slope from motivation to misery. Take note when these thoughts of comparison sneak in, and remind yourself that you aren’t that person. You don’t have the same goals, body type or resources as them. Focus on your recent accomplishments instead. If these feelings persist, try muting or unfollowing people while you sort through it.
3. UNHEALTHY BODY IMAGES
Social media is a primarily visual platform, and the fitness world still overwhelmingly defines success in terms of physical transformations. This can be a potent combination. Given the filtered nature of social media, nine times out of 10, you’re scrolling through endless flattering photos. Maybe somewhere in there, an influencer decided to open up about their stretch marks, muffin top or acne. Otherwise, we’re inundated with bulging biceps, shining six packs and curvy glutes.
This constant viewing of an idealized body can lead us to look in the mirror differently. We can begin to pick ourselves apart, and start to focus on how we can look more like “them.” Likely, we won’t be able to replicate this body that we see on the screen, because it’s not ours. So, the cycle continues.
Seek out influencers who don’t always post perfect pictures, and mute or unfollow the individuals that pop into your head when you’re looking in the mirror. If negative body image thoughts start to overwhelm you, and you notice them influencing your decision making, it may be wise to seek professional help.
4. UNQUALIFIED INFLUENCERS
Fitness influencers can be a great source of motivation, new workouts and recipes to spice up your normal routine. But, how many of the people who you follow are qualified to dispense such advice? More often than not, online influencers are self-taught and have no credentials to back their material.
While this doesn’t automatically nullify all influencer content, you should take their fitness or nutrition advice with a grain of salt. Especially if you’re new to a certain type of workout, or you’re looking to overhaul your diet. No drastic change in your lifestyle should be born from an online influencer with no professional certifications.
Instead of following amateur influencers, follow individuals with credentials to back up their captions. Most people will have their credentials listed in their bio, such as a certified personal trainer (CPT). And if you do see something online that you want to try, but are uncertain of the developer’s credentials, consult a professional who is familiar with your current fitness level and lifestyle, and run the idea by them beforehand.
5. DOING IT FOR THE ‘GRAM
Do you really even like goats? No, seriously. Do you? When you see things like goat yoga circulating the Internet, is your first instinct that you have to do it because you love goats, or because it would make for a killer photo?
Social media can be a great way to discover new trends, but just because something is trending, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily for you. Trying to keep up with influencers or hop on a trend before your friends get to it can take the fun out of fitness. Trends can begin to dictate your workouts and diets, and suddenly you’ve been drinking a green shake that you hate each morning because you feel compelled to post a photo bright and early every day.
Do what makes you happy. If you notice a new trend online, make sure that it’s something you want to do. Challenge yourself to complete a workout or try a new recipe without sharing it with the world. Is that a challenge for you, or do you do that already? Notice how not posting makes you feel, and if not sharing alters your experience or decision making in any way.
Social media can supplement your training, but it can also sabotage it. Most often, these detrimental changes are subtle and start slow. Be mindful of these five ways that social media can sabotage, so that you can use social media in an intentional way to help you succeed.