I’ve always had an interest in the uses of social media, so much so I actually did my university dissertation on Facebook and the way millions of people use it for various reasons. Recently, my close friend Amy wrote a blog post on something similar to what I’ll be waffling on about in this post (read it here: ShockettFitness) and I’ve seen so many things in magazines and online that has really made me want to get my views and opinions across to you guys. The way social media impacts body image and self-confidence is fast becoming a big issue that most people probably aren’t even aware of. The idea of creating a false reality online is something that always gets me thinking. So with this blog in mind, I conducted a little social media experiment… Have a cuppa at the ready, this’ll be a long – but very interesting – one…
First and foremost
People will use their social media accounts to show the world what they want people to see, be it celebrities – A-Listers through to Z-Listers – or people just like you and me. Rarely will people on a fitness account show pictures of them from a bad angle or under the weather, just like beauty accounts won’t show you all the times their hair and make-up tutorials didn’t go seamlessly. Recently, however, this post by well known fitness guru Emily Skye took me by surprise and prompted me to really think about the whole social media debarcle. She posted two photos both taken on the same day.
The first, a lean photo of her on a shoot wearing a skimpy bikini. The second, her after eating food that she knew would bloat her, unregrettably followed by chocolate and ice cream. I love everything that she says in the post, describing how life isn’t always perfect and it is okay to treat yourself and miss workout sessions (read the full post here: Emily Skye Facebook) because sometimes people focus too much on worrying and not enough time spent living. We need more people like this in the world! Maybe if more realistic photos were shown online and in magazines, there wouldn’t be so many people aiming to obtain the unobtainable.
Instagram & Facebook Social Experiment
With a degree in Psychology, I’m always keen to study peoples attitudes and behaviours, particularly in social settings. With this blog post in mind (and while I was going through a major bloated stage – blog post to follow sharpish!) I thought I would carry out my own little social experiment, just to highlight the points I’m making in this blog post, and show how easy it is to fool people. With Emily’s post still fresh in my mind, I wanted to see how differently your body can look in such a short space of time. So early this week I took two photos, they were as follows:
The one on the left was taken at around 11pm Wednesday night, while the one on the right was at 7am Thursday morning. There was only 8 hours between the pictures, BUT, I didn’t tell Instagram that. Instead, I told the trusted followers of both my fitness and personal instagram accounts, as well as my *gulp* Facebook (just for good measure), that these were in fact 4 months apart and my most recent ‘transformation’ picture, alongside a bit of the usual transformation picture schpeel.
As expected, comments of well wishes came pouring through – a little prompt by best friend Juliana was used to add to the ‘realness’ of the photo, but she was the only one that new about the real meaning of the picture, every single other comment and ‘like’ were from people who believed that what was depicted in this picture was real. I recieved texts from friends and comments from people at work – even my mother – praising me for my hard work and congratulating me on my progress. I played along, of course, but I just wanted to shout at them for being so naive. In fact, that is exactly what people are that believe everything they see online is real.
I think this little test shows just how influential a post on social media can be and how easily reality can be SO distorted for people to make others see and believe what someone wants them to. Sat behind a computer or phone screen, a person can make the world believe just what they want and it’s worryingly scary how easily this can be done.
[Note: Neither photo has been tampered with in any way, photoshop or otherwise, nor was I sticking out my belly at all. I suffer from a condition called Diverticulitis which causes bloated flare ups like this once or twice a month for around 3 or 4 days at a time. Everyone gets bloated, it’s a natural process that can happen to anyone, regardless of diet and fitness, and can be caused by so many different factors from food to hormones. As someone so into their fitness, I’m a lot more aware of the differences in my body, no matter how small they may be, but most people may not even notice. I’ll be talking more about bloating in my next blog post]
It was only a few months back that a girl managed to convince the whole of her Facebook that she was travelling the world by uploading photoshopped pictures when all along she was just sat in her bedroom at her family home. The main point I’m trying to make here is not to believe everything you see online. When you see unbelievable transformations in 2 weeks, or adverts for special detox teas and diet pills, think twice before you believe it’s real. My ‘transformation’ picture could have easily been advertising either of those – would you have gone out and bought the product because of it?
I felt terrible lying to all of my friends and decieving the people that have been following my fitness journey over the past 6 months, but I had a point to make! There are people that do this on a daily basis and more people that will believe that it is all real. That is the most worrying thing. People look at pictures and videos posted online by friends, celebrities, random people they stalk on Instagram, and assume their lives are perfect all of the time; that they wake up to the sound of bird songs and live in a world filled with rainbows, butterflies and pizza with zero calories.
Social media is a world so much more powerful than we are aware of; be careful out there!