It’s a Wrap!

The content of this scrapbook may have tipped in the direction of negative or critical. While I do offer a critical view of the fitness industry, I do not despise it. I still look at fitness models for inspiration at times, I still use samples of workout routines that I see on Instagram. I think that being part of a culture is not only about liking the culture, but there is a great importance of looking into the culture with multiple perspectives. So while I have found major flaws within the Instagram fitness culture, I still think of myself as part of that community.

I’d like to recap some of posts that I found most interesting to write; the first example pertaining to the oddities of online fitness culture. Oversharing is rampant among any online culture, because that is simply what the internet does. There are millions of individuals who, thanks to the internet, now have a voice and a platform to shout from. This is not necessarily bad, but it does allow for oversharing. For example, fitness inspiration Instagrammers love to talk about their bodily functions, ranging from when they got their last period to how often they use the restroom. This struck me as very surprising, because this culture is supposed to revolve around perceptions of attraction and I had assumed that information pertaining to one’s use of the bathroom would deter followers rather than attract them.

In contrast to an interesting example, I’d like to describe a problematic example that I wrote about in a previous post. The lack of authenticity in the fitness community is unsurprising, but the way it is conveyed is convoluted and at times, a little twisted. Fitness Instagram users are rather fond of posting photos that show minor flaws (e.g. spilled coffee on their shirt on the way to work) and then caption the photo with a detailed story of how they are human just like everybody else and they deal with stressful days, etc. They seem to want to relay the message of “Yes, I have abs. Yes, I make mistakes,” which in and of itself is not a bad message. The odd thing about these photos and messages is that they are never huge failures they’re talking about. These are never “real” problems. They are small inconveniences that are treated as a means to prove some sense of reality to followers. It comes off as pandering, especially when the audience consists of mainly 15–30 year old women who seek out these profiles because they are struggling with weight and self-image issues. Overall, it is counterintuitive to tell young women that their problems are the same as someone who may get paid thousands of dollars for working out and taking photos of it. The comparison is ignorant and to someone who works often for little money, offensive.

In the hopes of ending on a lighter, possibly peculiar note, I’d like to point out one last interesting discovery from researching fitness Instagram accounts. About one year ago, two very popular, successful Instagram fitness “stars” broke up. Christian Guzman and Nikki Blackketter had been dating for a few years and had climbed up the social media ladder together. During this time, fans of both individuals became deeply interested in the romantic relationship. Once the two split, Instagram accounts which covered the entire breakup, detail by detail, began popping up. To this day, a full year after the breakup, followers are still speculating as to why they broke up, who is the villain, and who the two are dating now. I find it incredibly interesting that individuals will hunt endlessly for evidence of any relationship these exes may still have. It is a huge invasion of privacy, but that comes with the territory of opening your life online to millions of strangers.

Throughout my research, I have noticed patterns of oversharing, inauthenticity, and extremely well-done marketing techniques. Fitness culture, both online and in reality, is often stereotyped as fake. It appears that this culture may always send that message to outsiders. Choosing a healthy lifestyle and priding oneself on determination and the achievement of goals is not bad; it is a very positive message. But using that message to make money off of individuals, especially young women, turns the culture into a deceitful community. In a way, this “I’m real, I have problems too” can be seen as a sense of naturalization. It is now very “normal” to open up Instagram and see hundreds of accounts with eerily similar posts on overcoming minor struggles and showing of the “reality” of a fitness model’s life. The posts are the same, over and over and over and over. There is somewhat of a formula behind them. These posts have become so common, however, they are not questioned. This is what it is like to step into the Instagram fitness culture.