If you have ever wandered through Instagram, there’s a good chance you will have stumbled on one of its most pervasive hashtags: #fitspo
On the surface, this seems like a positive trend that people can enjoy. Users post pictures of themselves, usually at a gym, posing at their most advantageous angles. “Look,” the pictures all seem to shout, “look how good I look in my gym clothes. Look how good my body looks. And you could look like this one day, too!”
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of inspiration, of course. We all have moments when we find our own reserves have run dry and there’s just no pepping ourselves up for excitement anymore. Rather than collapsing in a heap until we recharge our batteries, it seems normal to turn to other people to pick us up and give us that jolt we need.
However (there’s always a ‘however’ isn’t there…), if you are in the process of trying to improve your fitness or lose weight, there’s a very real chance that your glances at #fitspo are actually doing more harm than good.
#1 – We Forget Reality
If you look at a photo on Instagram, you should always try and keep in mind that that photo has not been posted without the user ensuring it shows them in the best possible light.
“Well,” you might think, “naturally? Who is going to post photos that show themselves at their worst? There’s nothing wrong with making sure these users look their best before they share a photo with the world!”
Of course there’s not – but how often do you remember this manipulation when you look at the photos? Do you look at them and list all the ways the photo has been manipulated or tinkered with? Do you count off the list:
- Advantageous angle
- Flattering lighting, which may or may not have been achieved with special equipment
- Image editing. This could be something mild such as brightening the photograph to show off detail, right down to full massive changes with PhotoShop. As many a celebrity has been proven to do, you can make someone’s figure look almost entirely different with just a few clicks of the mouse.
- Carefully cropped to ensure everything in the frame is complementary and looks good.
Do you do that? If so, then hurrah, you’re browsing these hashtags with all the right filters in mind! It’s clear from the comments on these images, however, that this kind of critical thinking is far from normal. Instead, most people will look at these carefully-curated images and see them as representations of reality. “Why can’t I look like that?” They mutter, all the while forgetting that the person in the photo doesn’t even look like that. This can cause downbeat feelings and the exact opposite of inspiration, all because you’re aspiring to an ideal that is literally impossible.
#2 – It Makes Us Vulnerable
If you see a photo of someone looking amazing, then it’s natural to wonder how they obtained their figure. If you can see the results of what they have been doing, the evidence is right in front of your eyes: it works, so why not follow it?
There’s some truth to the above, but at that point, you change your relationship with the image. Rather than just browsing for inspiration as a general civilian, you have now become part of a demographic that can be sold to. Even before you have considered a purchase (or even realized that you are considering it), you have become a target market.
That’s why so many people are now able to make their living off of their online sharing of their fitness, weight loss, and workout methods. They use things like #fitspo to capture attention, which then gives them an immediate marketplace of buyers who are already believers in their methods. It’s not just Instagram.com this happens on either; #fitspo and its ilk exist all over social media platforms, all with the same goal in mind.
Again, on the surface, this might sound fairly harmless. If someone has done something that has evidently worked for them, then what’s wrong with them wanting to share it? And we live in a capitalistic society, so of course, they should be paid for their knowledge – right?
Unfortunately, as piyoreviews.com shows, that’s not always a good deal. The price for that knowledge – which might often be little more than the advice you can find online for a drastically lower cost – can be hugely inflated. The prices that some gurus – made entirely on social media – ask for either their services as a personal trainer or their secrets are, frankly, extortionate.
Yet that’s the problem with #fitspo. The viewers of their photos are already believers, which means they might choose to treat themselves to these inflated prices. It becomes almost a form of fan worship; they like the person so they buy without thinking about the potential cost in terms of value for money. As we see by the endless plethora of celebrity sponsorships of a variety of products, you can always charge more if you attach a well-known face to it.
So How Do You Avoid This?
If the above has got you thinking that maybe you shouldn’t seek your inspiration from strangers, then you’re halfway there. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying this kind of inspiration, potentially even paying for guidance, so long as you stay aware of the potential tricks being used to lure you in. For every person selling a terrible way of getting in shape and staying that way, there is someone legitimate who just wants to help people by sharing their own experiences.
Providing you make decisions based on a sound analysis of what’s on offer (knowing that the “results” you have seen in photographs might be heavily edited), then go for it. You’ll soon be able to identify the common tricks that are used as sweeteners by those looking to sell for no other reason beside profit, and then you’ll be able to avoid them. Be a cynic and always read the fine print, and you can’t go far wrong.