Ah yes, the signature hashtags of the Instagram fitness craze. The newest addition to the list of ways your newsfeed can simultaneously uplift and depress you.
On any given day, your evening scroll might take you from #FoodPorn to your friend’s #NewBaby all the way to a sponsored video of @kayla_itsines setting those #FitnessGoals you may or may not be able to realistically achieve.
Here are a few examples of the type of posts I’m talking about:
Don’t get me wrong.
While these women are impressive in their own right, both in their physical abilities and social media influencing power, the impact of these curated highlight reels is not all good.
The research about the negative impact on mental health resulting from exposure to unrealistic standards of beauty already exists, but you might think that the positive messages found in the captions are enough to inspire rather than discourage, but “you can do it, too!” messages might just be part of the problem.
Regularly, pictures of incredibly toned, tan, and beautiful women are captioned with inspirational quotes or thoughts like “love yourself enough to exercise.”
So what’s the problem? That sounds encouraging, right?
The problem, according to certified personal trainers like Bri Wilson, owner of Koru Personal Training in Victoria, British Columbia, is that these images are sold as “real” when they are anything but that.
They send the message that what you see is what you get, when in reality, many are filtered, edited, and angled into oblivion.
This means that the image on your Instagram has most likely been selected from multiple shots and then put through the wringer before hitting your feed.
Though research regarding the specific effect of these Instagram fitness accounts on the mental health of women is still developing, the findings of comparable studies can be applied.
Researchers from from Ohio University, The University of Iowa and the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, Scotland came together to present their study on the relationship between Facebook usage and body image at the International Communication Association’s Annual Conference.
The researchers found that women who spent more time on Facebook were much more likely to have a negative body image than those who spent less time.
Not really a surprise, but this is important to understand when considering the potential negative impacts of an Instagram feed full of images women can easily compare themselves to.
Ditching the Filters
To the credit of several fierce fitness ladies, many have committed to showing their followers a more “realistic” angle into their lives. These “real” posts allow their followers to see them when they aren’t posed for the perfect shot.
- Kelsey Wells, @mysweatlife
Caption: “According to my old self and flawed standards, I would be failing miserably. THANK GOODNESS I finally learned to start measuring my progress by things that matter–strength, ability, endurance, health, and HAPPINESS,” she wrote. “I have never been more comfortable in my own skin than I am now. And if I didn’t say #screwthescale long ago, I would have gave up on my journey.”
2. Anna Victoria, @annavictoria
Caption: “Your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat to be healthy, your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat for you to love yourself, and your stomach does not have to be perfectly flat to be confident and beautiful and an all around amazing person”
3. Emily Skye, @emilyskyefit
Caption: “Be comfortable in your own skin and [not] let your insecurities hold you back from living your life”
We think this is the coolest. We see time and time again how powerful social media can be – for good and for not so good. In this case, the not so good is getting turned around quickly by badass women.
The bravery it takes to show yourself, flaws and all, to the world is impressive not matter HOW toned you might be.
Because that shit is still terrifying.
So bravo to all the women out there using their social influence for GOOD by showing their fellow females that perfect doesn’t exist!