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Shame, social networking, and fitness

I am one of those people.

I’m the friend who posts details of my workouts to Facebook. Using the check-in function I tell friends when I’m at Aikido, Crossfit, or more recently, the London Rowing Club.

Sometimes I even give details. This morning I did 5 rounds of the following: 40 medicine ball throws, 30 sit ups, 20 push ups, 10 burpees.

Using Endomondo, I track distance, speed, and route when hiking and biking and that too, I share to Facebook. I’ve started tracking hikes in part because I’ve gotten lost twice recently in parks and it’s nice to be able to look at the map in progress and see if I’m heading back in the direction of the car. This summer, on a 30 degree + day, a 1 hour hike turned into a 3 hour hike without water (for me, the dog was happy was the river) so now I always turn on Endomondo for the map if nothing else.

Indeed, the idea for this blog came about about when I posted a note to Facebook about my “fittest by fifty” idea. A lively discussion about what it means to be fit ensued, Tracy joined in, and thus our blog was born.

I’m not one-sided about this. I like it when friends share their fitness activities too. I smile when I see Tracy’s been out running, or that J has been to karate, or that S has lifted a ton of weight at the gym. I cheer them on and their active lives serve as a source of happiness and inspiration for me. Besides if it’s tiresome for others to read about what I’m up to, they can always learn to use the “see fewer updates from this person” function in Facebook or opt to not see posts from Endomondo.

So all of this is just to say, I’m a big fan of social networking for support for myself and others with our fitness goals.

But social networking has a dark side it turns out. And that dark side is shame and punishment.

A new crop of fitness apps work by paying you when you meet your activity goals and keeping your cash when you don’t. Other apps shame you by posting workout failures to social networking sites.

From The Huffington Post:

Dubbed the “Gym Shamer,” this application tracks your fitness goals (e.g. “visit the gym 3 times a week”) and sends a shameful message to your social media contacts if you slack off.

Gym visits are recorded via Foursquare check-ins, while Facebook and Twitter integration maximize the full reach of your potential “embarrassing, degrading, and insulting” shame.

Gym Shamer is the brainchild of New York entrepreneurs Tal Flanchraych and Volkan Unsal and was conceived during an early-January Foursquare Hackathon.

“New Year’s resolutions are on everyone’s mind right now,” Flanchraych explained to The Huffington Post in an email. “So we thought it was a good theme to build on — especially considering that getting in shape is the most common resolution we hear about.”

“The problem with most fitness apps,” she continued, “is that they’re wholly reliant on your existing level of motivation — there are no consequences if you forget to use them or start getting lazy (and don’t we all?).”

Here’s an example tweet, provided by Gym Shamer:
gym shamer

And it’s not just fitness. There’s the diet program Virtual Fridge Lock – which works with a device that attaches to the refrigerator and  senses when the refrigerator is opened, and shames the midnight snacker by posting to  Facebook.

“This person just raided the fridge.”

Aherk! might be the worst. Aherk! describes itself as a goal-oriented self-blackmailing service.” When you sign up for Aherk! you set a goal, such as running 10 km or losing 10 lbs, and send in an embarrassing photo – referred to as “the bomb.”  If you don’t meet your goal, then news of your failure and the bomb get posted to Facebook.

So far I haven’t seen any “Jane didn’t run 5 km today as planned. She missed her workout” showing up in my newsfeed and I’m pretty glad. I don’t think shame is  motivational for most of us.

What do you think? Would the threat of public shaming motivate you to get to the gym? Are there circumstances under which you’d use one of these tools or are you like me, a fan of the positive sharing with no shame involved?

Read more here:

Foursquare Hackathon Winners: Shame Yourself for Your Lack of Gym Motivation and More

Aherk! uses power of shame to motivate

4 thoughts on “Shame, social networking, and fitness

  1. Oof! Those apps sound awful! It might work for some people but personally those types of approaches would misplace my motivation and if I did reach a goal it wouldn’t have been for the right reasons. And if I didn’t reach the goal public shaming would not motivate me to try again.

    1. I can’t imagine it working for me either. And I’d just feel bad for friends if I saw apps posting their failures. Sad.

  2. Definitely not for me.

    For one, I’m just not into shame as a motivator in general. For two, I’ve been on the receiving end of enough shame specific to working out (or not working out, or not seeing the “right” results from working out) to have a particular aversion to this application of motivation via shame.

    For three, I have a chronic pain condition that sometimes impedes my ability to work out moderately or vigorously, even if I want to be doing so. The amount of self-blame and aggravation and frustration because a disease I do not want is keeping me from living the life I do want again — it’s already complicated and immense. Putting up a post on Facebook or wherever would publicize the event (not working out) at a time when I would be least likely to be able to handle any responses to it.

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