Whether on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or almost any other social networking site, “fitspiration” and exercise posts are everywhere we look. A new study from Health Communication journal finds that the more exercise-related posts you see on social media, the more self-conscious you feel about your body – a finding that anyone with an Instagram account already knows, but we now have the scientific backing to prove it.
Researcher Tricia J. Burke measured how many exercise-related posts a person saw and how it affected their attitudes about exercise and personal “weight concerns.” Not only did individuals’ body image decrease after seeing these posts, but if they considered themselves “friends” or to have similar characteristics, the impact was even harsher.
The results of this study only add to what we already know about the dangers of exercise-related posts on social media. In 2016, the Journal of Applied Communication Research published a study which found that exposure to “fitspiration” quotes and images didn’t motivate the young adults viewing them – the posts instead increased the individuals’ amount of negative body talk. Rather than inspiring people to exercise, these posts guilt-tripped the majority of survey participants into feeling like they had to lose weight and change how they looked.
The overwhelming majority of these “fitspiration” posts feature only thin, toned women, suggesting that only this body type can be considered fit or healthy. This can increase the prevalence of disordered eating or even exercise addiction in a population that already faces ongoing pressures and beauty standards outside of social media – whether through TV, movies, advertisements, or other forms of media. Almost 70 percent of women and 65 percent of girls feel pressured by media and advertising to “reach an unrealistic standard of beauty,” with more than half of women recognizing that social media also plays a key factor in continuing these standards.
One of the most concerning aspects of #fitspiration posts is that they aren’t likely to disappear any time soon, especially not when those posting them feel they are doing a service to the community and promoting a “healthier” lifestyle. While this study proves that these posts aren’t actually helping, the exercise-obsessed side of social media continues to grow and thrive, influencing hundreds of thousands of women to follow in its footsteps.