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Posting Fitness Activities on Social Media-Radical Act or Just Annoying? (Guest Post)

 As active women, many of us are familiar with being held up as an “Inspiration” by people in various circles, be they close, casual or virtual. There are a lot of ways I do not like being identified as an inspiration. The worst is because I’m thin. That has nothing to do with me or anything I’ve tried to accomplish. It’s just me. Nat has written about being a fat woman who is an “Inspiration” here. Women are told they are inspiring because they’ve lost lots of weight and because they look hot with those triceps (I do love a tight triceps, don’t get me wrong). But much of that kind of inspiring is whether we have met or are on our way to meet the normative beauty standards of our culture. In other words, they are only skin deep.

Just today, however, one of my friends who is a prolific Facebook poster tagged me as part of her “Power Squadron” who inspired her to start walking every day at lunch. It got me thinking about the influence of social connections and social media to inspire us positively to get out and move in the ways that are best for us and our bodies.

As I was mid think, another friend posted a run via her running app. She’s a self-identified feminist and big woman athlete. Running is something recent for her and she’s burning up the pavement by leaps and bounds. She will be running 10k before the end of the year I predict. I was excited for her and I said so. Last sentence of my comment was “Keep going and keep posting about it.” She responded with thanks and we got into a discussion around whether posting these things is good or annoying.

Complicating my contemplation was a recent article about personality traits in Facebook users and qualities of their correspondent Facebook updates:

In line with Hypothesis 7, narcissism was positively associated with updating about achievements and with using Facebook for validation. Moreover, the use of Facebook for validation and for communication predicted the frequency of updating about achievements over and above the control variables and traits (b = .14, p = .02 and b = .13,p = .04, respectively). The association of narcissism with updating about achievements was significantly mediated by the use of Facebook for validation (b = .04, p = .05 (CI: .006–.07)), consistent with narcissists’ tendency to boast in order to gain attention ( Buss & Chiodo, 1991). Also consistent with Hypothesis 7, narcissism was positively associated with updating about diet/exercise, but the use of Facebook for self-expression rather than validation was positively associated with updating about diet/exercise over and above the control variables and traits (b = .24, p < .01). Self-expression mediated the association of narcissism with updating about diet/exercise (b = .03, p = .03 (CI: .003–.04)), suggesting that narcissists may broadcast their diet and exercise routine to express the personal importance they place on physical appearance ( Vazire et al., 2008).

In other words, people who post a lot about achievements and specifically diet/exercise may be more likely to be narcissists. 1

Something about that felt wrong to me or perhaps, something about part of that felt wrong to me. I have been trying, as much as possible for a maybe-narcissist, to resolve what I feel is a positive behaviour that nets positive and valuable results among my friend circle with this idea that it is annoying and self-centred. I came up with a few thoughts.

First of all, women who are self-centred, or think about themselves and their needs at all are often perceived as selfish. So already I’m wondering about the bias here. Second, middle age women who start to walk, run, do endurance sports or generally make themselves physically more formidable may make some other people uncomfortable. Aren’t I supposed to go softly into my middle years, usher my children out of the nest, relinquish my active sexuality and stay quiet? Now obviously I think, “No freaking way”. Many of you think that too but I think we are outliers and that is the point. Finally, the study itself pairs diet/exercise sorts of posts for the purpose of their analysis. I think that’s a fatal flaw. My views on diet posts, calorie counting posts, weight watcher updates and “OMG I’m so FAT!” posts are vastly different than “OMG fastest ever 5k!” posts.

My running friend also eschews the calorie counting elements of posting. We have both researched whether our apps are posting calories and if they are, we try to hide that useless info. I remember when I first started to read this blog and follow some of the people associated with it. They inspired me to keep going, push harder and do more. Even better, they did that with thoughtful commentary and self awareness. They did it for these awesome affirming reasons and if they are secretly narcissists, I don’t care (secretly narcissist would be a perpetual state of oxy-moron anyway). Keep posting people and I’ll keep cheering.

1-Narcissism as a personality trait and the corresponding personality disorder, is associated with an exaggerated positive self-expression that covers over a highly fragmented and worthless sense of self. It is also associated with a profound lack of empathy with others and an inability to see past one’s own need to maintain the false front. It’s not nice. Full disclosure, I’ve contemplated my own Narcissism before here so. . .maybe it’s a thing.

6 thoughts on “Posting Fitness Activities on Social Media-Radical Act or Just Annoying? (Guest Post)

  1. I occasionally post to FB about new PRs for lifting and that kind of thing. I love it, and I enjoy reading that kind of post. You are correct, though, that people are quick to label this behaviour in women as selfish. In my case, the subliminal messaging is that I am single and don’t have kids, which means that I should spend all my time at work. Obviously.

  2. I unfollow friends who feel the need to post their daily workout, complete with gym selfies. Or hide posts.
    If someone runs a marathon, competes in a major event or is teaching somewhere others might be interested in, I think that’s great. Facebook is an opportunity to share information and achievement. And open yourself up to criticism, which it always can.

    But otherwise it has the feel of competition. And for me, it triggers some inner feeling of inadequacy, like I should be doing more. Or telling people what I am doing.

    And I shouldn’t. I get in more than enough exercise. I just don’t post about it.

    So, my personal gauge is why am I posting. If it’s for accolades or acknowledgement of myself, or it feels like insecurity prompting me, I don’t.

  3. “There are a lot of ways I do not like being identified as an inspiration. The worst is because I’m thin. That has nothing to do with me or anything I’ve tried to accomplish. It’s just me.”

    I agree.

    I actually haven’t read blog posts on a blogger’s athletic /fitness achievement for the day, etc. Maybe out of curiosity on what they did at a major event. And I don’t read fitness progress of a blogger, because ….after awhile, it’s boring reading. I’d rather learn other perspectives about the blogger. I know I’m supposed to be cheering, etc. But isn’t it enough that I even read/skimmed your blog post? People are forgetting it takes time read other blogs and comment on them. We are expecting WAY too much of other readers, who have their lives, things to do during the day.

    Hence, I don’t write about my cycling conquests, fitness achievements on my blog even though part of it is about cycling. More about what I see from the bike saddle, not my mileage, cadence, etc. Otherwise I will turn off a lot of my regular readers… I do have non-cycling readers who are curious about the cycling experience as a means of exploring their world in a more flexible way. That’s the whole point: Learn more about the world in a different. Forget about my cycling fitness.

  4. I should I don’t have children, etc. But really, there’s so much more to me, than just my cycling fitness efforts. Waaaay more than that. I’m not going to be remembered for my cycling fitness, I will be for other stuff that I did before cycling and still continue to do/believe in/live my lifestyle.

    I do view my personal blog as partially the essence of me. A fitness blog journal would be very limited, poor representation of me….that’s not how I want my family and close friends to know me/remember me.

  5. Thank you for this post! I previously wrote often about my exercise endeavours prior to military recruitment. I seen so many negative comments and posts about people (specifically women) posting too many “annoying” personal bests, or other information. Personally, I find posts encouraging. I think its fantastic to hear about the success of others.

    Thank you again! Enjoyed the journal!

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