Facebook is the social network where we dodge game requests from our Aunt and communicate with the people we know. Twitter is more personal but allows you to indulge in debates and group experiences in real time with people across the globe. Snapchat is... actually, no one really knows what Snapchat is outside of the lucrative 18-24 market it dominates.
And then there is Instagram. Launched in 2010, over the course of six years, it has become the focal point for photo sharing online. Not only does it host a million and one cat pictures, but it's now also a ruthless revenue-generating machine.
Though of course, cat photos are still popular.
Businesses can advertise directly into your feed, or promote their products through one of the big names who use the service. With a clean, inspiring aesthetic, it's easy to be hooked in.
Instagram has become about much more than random photos spotted, snapped and shared. High-end users now analyze everything to do with the service, from their reach to the overall appearance of their grid. The end result is something that it's hard to overlook: beautiful pictures of beautiful people and stunning scenery. The clothes are crisp; the workouts are punishing yet effective; the light is always bright and studio-quality.
The Instagram stars who have made it big have also brought in big revenue for themselves and the brands they promote. It's only natural to look at these seemingly perfect lives and wish yours was something similar.
Fitness Inspiration Profiles: #fitspo and #transformationtuesday
Very few people look in the mirror and are happy with what they see. Therefore, the market for weight loss and inspiration products is worth literally billions. It's a lucrative market for Instagram stars, who post photos of their workouts. And they do it all seemingly without a hair out of place, a light gleam of camera-friendly sweat on their brow.
With a significant following, product lines and sponsorships follow. Yet they are not all that they seem.
The Life of Instagram Stars Is Not All It Seems
Instagram stars paint their lives to be perfect. Always in frame; always in focus; their bodies shining with beauty, health, and vigor. Yet it didn't take long for the cracks to begin to show.
Essenna O'Neill was one of the first to break rank. She had over half a million followers and used the platform as her sole income. She posted shots of her slender, toned physique along with recommendations for food, exercise, and anything else.
Yet in 2015, she declared that social media was not real life. She edited all the captions of her photos, showing what went into the "effortless" look she had portrayed. She revealed the sadness behind the photos and announced she was leaving Instagram for something more real.
She is not the first, and it is unlikely she will be the last. Julia Stakhiva presented herself as the daughter of a Russian billionaire and even appeared on a TV show called Rich Kids of Instagram. However, it's been revealed she is nothing of the sort. Meanwhile, back in the fitness land, more than a few Kayla Itsines reviews have cast doubt on the products she now promotes.
So Is Instagram All Fake?
No. Those above are isolated examples; the platform would not be able to thrive if it was all false. However, it should have a significant impact on the way you interact with Instagram.
Star Does Not Mean Expert
If you are trying to lose weight, you'll want to take advice from someone you admire. A star of Instagram might be such a person, and it seems harmless to follow their tips and advice for fitness.
Yet it's vital that you remember they are a lay person. Sure, they look good, but you are only going on trust. They might claim their new juicing plan, or ab workout is responsible for their physique, but you don't know for sure. They might be engaging in all manner of unhealthy behaviors when the camera is not clicking. Or they may be completely legitimate - but being skeptical is always wise.
Use Common Sense
It's mainly understood nowadays that crash diets don't work; healthy food does. Exercise that only focus on one area of the body doesn't work; you have to vary. So if someone is promoting a regime that flies in the face of common fact, then you have legitimate reasons to doubt them.
This is not to say everyone on Instagram is selling false dreams. We are not a world of psychopaths; some people genuinely do find a system that works for them and want to share it. As a consumer, however, it's your role to be discerning. If they cite scientific evidence, go and find the study yourself and back it up. If they recommend something outside of the societal norm, then do your research and see what people think.
It's very easy when you want to lose weight and gain fitness to be duped. Society has taught you that fat is bad, and lack of fitness is lazy, so you'll do anything to fix it. It's this desperation that marketers rely on, and the less reliable of them can stoop to low depths to try and capture you. Just because someone looks beautiful on their grid doesn't mean that they are on the inside.
Use Instagram Stars As Inspiration - Not Gurus
At the end of the day, we all want to look at pretty pictures. We all need something to aspire to, a person who we see a little of ourselves in and thus want to emulate. No one is saying that Instagram fitness and health should be dismissed. If they're the kick that you need to get your motivation going, then take it. Motivation is tough to come by, so whatever works for you.
However, don't let the stunning photographs of lean bodies be all that guides you. Do your research beforehand and always question if you are getting value for money should you decide to invest. Don't fall for the hype and don't be a cynic; just learn to see past the filter.
On a final note, remember, this is something your kids should be aware of as well. Children are highly susceptible to influence, so teach them the importance of seeing fact from fiction.