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Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Ashleigh Atkinson MHK

Ashleigh Atkinson obtained her Bachelors of Physical Education from Brock University, followed by her Masters of Human Kinetics from the University of Windsor. Academically, her research areas focused on sport and exercise psychology, but since leaving school, her interests have expanded. The science of bodybuilding, from muscle growth to hormonal impacts and supplementation, drew her in and she has completed a handful of certifications around training and nutritional constructs, including the Nutritional Medicine Profile certificate from the International College of Applied Nutrition & Strength. In addition to the work she does for Muscle Insider, Ashleigh works as a health promotion specialist, runs a successful online coaching business with her husband, and is also a national level figure competitor with the Canadian Physique Alliance.

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Social Media – Friend or Foe?

Ashleigh Atkinson, MHK

With more than three billion people actively using social media around the world, it’s safe to say that it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s a daily part of many people’s lives as a way to stay connected to friends and family, and it’s even a platform for businesses to advertise. But, along with the positives of social media, there can be negatives. Are you falling victim to some of the downsides of your favorite app?

Fitness Goes Viral

The fitness industry is thriving on social media. Companies award sponsorships based on account followers, and people share details of their training and meal plans for everyone to see. On the flip side, having access to a constant stream of physiques to compare yourself against, or experiencing online bullying, can turn your phone into an unavoidable source of stress. Recognize social media for what it is (and what it isn’t) to keep your head on straight when it comes to your platform of choice.

The Likes

Social media can be a terrific source of credible educational content, if you know where to look. Following the right people can provide a wealth of information—for free! Additionally, many experts will host Q&A sessions, doling out more specific info to their followers.

Competitors can also develop a strong support network via social media, even to followers on the other side of the world. The connections that can be made and maintained online allow people to stay in touch and provide encouragement.

Thumbs Down

Comparison is a natural part of bodybuilding; after all, that’s what happens onstage. However, social media allows us to take this comparison too far with 24-7 access to other competitors’ pictures. This commonly leads to competitors questioning whether or not they’re good enough, if they’re progressing as fast as others, and stressing about how they’ll place. This is especially rampant among female competitors. Chronically high cortisol levels from this kind of negative stress can halt fat loss and cause water retention, generally making your physique look worse and further fueling concerns and stress around progress.

It’s also incredibly easy to overlook the fact that social media is purely a collection of snapshots. Generally, it’s a highlight reel of someone’s successes and happiest moments, often portrayed through beautifully staged (and hyper-edited) pics. Many social media stars have found the perfect formula of lighting, angles, filters, and Photoshop-quality editing that could give professional photographers a run for their money.

The combination of only sharing life’s positives, and making them look flawless, can easily paint the picture of an enviable, perfect life. This may result in other’s feeling jealous, or “behind schedule” in life, adding to their stress and fueling self-doubt.

Keep It Real

Regard social media for what it is—a tool to connect with people and a means to share glimpses of your life. Trust that everyone you follow has had their fair share of ups and downs, and has likely failed along the way. In some cases, people may want to deal with these factors in private, or their greatest struggles occurred before social media existed (that’s right, there was a time when people didn’t document each waking moment of their lives).

At the end of the day, if you find that social media is having a negative impact on your life, your progress, or your mind-set, the answer is simple: delete it. Turn your focus to living your life and achieving your goals, in real time.


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