How Your Social Media Friends Are Ruining Your Self-Esteem

Does anyone look this good at the gym? A new study examines the complicated relationship between social media, workout social media posts, and self-esteem.

(Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash)


These days, everyone has a favorite social media account. Whether its Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, we are constantly posting updates and photos of our lives. We broadcast all of the very exciting places we visit, and one place many people visit on a daily basis is the gym.

When people go to the gym they will often take workout selfies while standing in front of the mirror, photos of the equipment they’re using, or even take videos of the latest barre exercises they are doing. They will then take this content and post it to their social media accounts. Don’t lie; you know exactly what we’re talking about. You’ve probably seen at least one of these workout social media posts already today, if you didn’t post it yourself. But are these social media posts actually a problem?

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According to a study on workout social media posts recently published in the medical journal Health Communication, there are a lot of reasons for posting that selfie from the gym. Perhaps we just want to share our gym adventures and motivational tips. However, we might also be doing this because we want to receive encouragement and positive words from all of our social media friends. Even though it might boost our own self-esteem, how does it make our followers feel?

The study found that people who constantly see fitness-related posts from their friends on social media might feel more self-conscious about their own bodies. According to TIME, 230 people were surveyed and asked about their thoughts on their own weight, fitness, and health. These 230 people were active on social media. They were also asked how many times they see a workout or other fitness-related post pop up on their timeline and if they compare themselves to the people who are posting it.

People who saw more fitness-related posts responded by saying they were more likely to be overly concerned about how they look and what they weigh. They said if the person posting the content was similar in body weight and shape, the self-esteem issue was even more apparent. However, not everyone reacted this way.


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The average monthly cost of a gym membership is $58 per person, and some people really are motivated by seeing other’s workout social media posts. While there were many people who felt discouraged and down after seeing those posts, many people said they actually felt inspired to get to the gym. They said the health and fitness related posts created a positive attitude instead of a negative one.

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So are social media workout posts good or bad for your follower’s self-esteem? The answer seems to be… yes? If the study’s results sounds confusing and contradictory, there’s a reason for that.

“This is all still pretty new ground, and we’re trying to make sense of what it means, and if and why it matters,” said Stephen Rains, a researcher with the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Today, about two in five Americans has employee-sponsored healthcare, and many of these plans now cover some or all of the costs of a gym membership. While your social media workout posts may encourage followers to hit the gym more often, it can cause some people to feel self-conscious about their own appearance and exercise habits, or lack thereof.

Since it can affect a person in many different ways, study author Tricia Burke, PhD, encourages the importance of being mindful of what you actually share online. What you post can either negatively or positively affect someone without you even thinking about it.


Take a look at the people you follow online. Are their posts making you feel down about yourself or are they actually lifting you up?



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