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by Teresa Parsons
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of women’s sport and social media–popularly called “fitspiration”–and about how my own social media presence is lacking. As we begin to spend more and more of our time perusing feeds that provide us with a steady stream of often aspirational content, I think it’s worthwhile to spend some time reflecting on the appeal of gaining followers and likes, and the impact of sharing our lives with the world. I recently spoke to a woman who suggested I should work towards having a greater social media presence and more followers. She thought that I deserved more of an online following because of my success in powerlifting. She was very kind, but I have no plans to change my lackluster social media and I’d like to explain why. When it comes to the realm of health and fitness I am an athlete and a student. I have nothing to prove and no concrete advice to give.
I am a big fan of social media for its ability to promote, educate, entertain, inspire, share, converse, provide awareness and make connections. But there is also potential for harm. Social media provides an outlet for almost anyone to become a fitness or nutrition expert, doling out advice regardless of education and experience. It is also a place that can be unhealthy for people struggling with their own self-image as they are flooded with images of bodies that make them feel bad about their own. I feel fortunate to have been comfortable with my body and my interests before ever finding “fitspiration” online. Because of this, I am conscious of what I post. I care what people think and although we all perceive things in our own way, I do not want to add to what I perceive as the negative side of fitspiration. I want to contribute to healthy growth in the female fitness community, and I do not think social media is the only way for me to do this.
The opportunity to have real life human conversation and connection is more important to me than the acceptance of strangers. My greatest inspiration in my athletic endeavors has always come from the people I see working the hardest no matter what their outcome is. I think the ability to help people in any way is the greatest gift we can share with one another, but I also feel that the best way for me to do this is to talk to people I interact with in person. It flatters me that anyone would think I have the potential to be an Instastar, but that is not something I aspire to be. I do not think it would add quality substance to my life or improve my character. I speak only for myself on this though: just because it is not for me doesn’t mean I think it is not for anyone. The fact that I have inspired even one person to get active via social media is a great compliment to me, and it is my hope that I do have the ability to inspire others.
Social media is a platform for me to express my gratitude, highlight my powerlifting and share select parts of my life. I use it for fun. I believe in promoting the people who have helped me. I hope my presence and influence on and off social media is a positive one. I am grateful to be part of the female fitness community and am truly passionate about spreading my love for fitness and particularly for strength sports. But I don’t need to be famous to do this. I want to inspire, not intimidate. I want girls to get active for the self-love, friendship, strength, confidence, and sense of accomplishment–for so many reasons. Not for the likes, not for the followers or for the comments. Some of the content I see in my newsfeed is in my opinion more harmful than helpful in this area. I do not want to add to this. I know enough to know I am far from an expert in the fitness world. And because my fitness journey is what I choose to share, I will continue to be an enthusiast and an athlete. I will continue to selectively share my experiences, but I will be honest that what works for me may or may not work for you. I won’t pretend to be an expert in things I am not an expert in. When it comes to powerlifting, what I know is a drop in the bucket compared to what other longtime athletes and trainers know. I am not comfortable giving out training advice because I wouldn’t even be comfortable making a training plan for myself. I won’t tell you how to eat because I still look to others for guidance. What I do have is the willpower to work hard. This is one of my attributes that I am most grateful for and proud of, but I don’t know that I could teach it. I am inspired by kindness, hard work, realness and intelligence. The few people who have inspired me from the internet have been people who I have seen be the same person both on and offline. That is the type of person I aspire to be. I do not feel the need or desire to grow myself as a social media star. One day I might, but at this point in my life I think to be anything less than honest, or to pass out unsolicited advice in an area already saturated with it in order to gain followers would be an abuse of the following I do have.
I do not have anything to sell. My success in sport is a combined effort of the work I have put in with the work and support provided by my coaches, friends, family and sponsors. My personality and appearance is a combination of genetics and life experiences. My expertise as far as my education and current work experience has no relevance to my hobbies and isn’t something I am truly passionate about so I don’t post about it. My future career aspiration is much more relevant to the world of health and fitness, and is something I will be willing to share when I feel I know enough to give quality information.
I use social media for fun, entertainment and to promote the people who support me. It is a great resource for networking, but it is not the only resource. It’s awesome if social media helps someone grow their business, sell good quality products or share information that is informed and backed by appropriate knowledge and resources. There is no denying the reach social media has. In the future maybe I will have a career and experience that will let me branch out a little more online, but for now I’m okay with not being a social media star.