Social media is full of gym selfies showing people beaming sweatily after a good workout. It’s also full of people complaining about gym selfies. Are those who take them self-obsessed? Attention starved? Negatively affecting how you, as a viewer, feel about your body? Should everyone stop taking them?
I’d like to propose a revolutionary alternative: Maybe people should take whatever pictures they want. Maybe gym selfies bring more joy to the world than they take away. Maybe, if they bother you, the problem isn’t with the selfie-takers at all.
Curate your feed
I find some kinds of gym-related social media content really inspiring, while other kinds bore or annoy me. If you there is stuff in your social feeds that drives you nuts, unfollow or mute those accounts, and consider what you’d rather be looking at.
For example, I don’t follow many people who take posed selfies in the gym — not because there’s anything wrong with that, but because I want to see people doing things. I follow people who show off their impressive lifts or illustrate the day-in, day-out grind of their training. Seeing somebody else’s dedication reminds me that I can be that dedicated, too. If there’s a selfie thrown in here or there, I don’t mind; if I’m not in the mood to see one, I’ll scroll past.
Once you can identify what bothers you about gym selfies on your feed, you can make smart choices, too. Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, or whose social presence just doesn’t enrich your life. If somebody posts ab-flexing selfies every day and you’d rather not see so many, maybe the problem isn’t with them at all.
Other people’s selfies are not about you
The truth is, people take gym selfies for themselves, their friends, and their followers, and they have their own reasons for doing so.
Lifting videos and physique photos are useful for evaluating progress over time. Form check videos may or may not meet the definition of a gym selfie (depending on who you ask), but they’re a valuable tool for anyone working with a remote trainer or seeking to analyse their own lifts.
Gym-related social media posts are also a way many people participate in a community. Maybe you train at home, or you go to a commercial gym where the other patrons don’t share your particular fitness interests. But you want somebody out there to know you’re working every day toward a big goal — whatever that might be — so you don’t feel quite so alone. Often, you’re more likely to find that somebody on social media than, say, by endlessly telling your coworkers about it.
Especially during the pandemic, I’ve gotten to know plenty of other lifters via this method. I see how they’re training, and they see me; we cheer each other’s personal records and commiserate about the days that don’t go well. We might plan together how to overcome an obstacle, or discuss where to buy the best pair of knee sleeves. These people are my gym buddies, whether I ever see them in real life or not.
More benefits of gym selfies
Gym selfies, lift videos, and all the rest can also be beneficial to those who view them. When I’m learning a new lift — log press, let’s say — I follow its hashtag on Instagram and start watching how people accomplish it. I watch their form, but I also pay attention to where and how they set up in their gym or home. That’s how I discovered a pair of tyres can make good crash pads under the end of the log, for example.
These posts can also help you scope out a new gym — I’ve checked out gyms and competition venues by looking up posts tagged at those locations so I know what to expect when I go there — or get over your fears of trying something new. It’s also inspiring to read people’s captions when they’re posting about conquering their own fears, or setting or reaching a new goal.
Gym selfies are almost always about more than narcissism. And in those cases where they really are just somebody thirsting for a few likes, what’s so bad about that? Wanting to be liked is part of being human.