Seeing friends’ post-workout, sweaty-sports-bra–clad selfies on social media or watching someone’s intense training sesh via their Instagram Stories isn’t uncommon—but is it doing any good for your self-esteem? According to one new study, scrolling through unending fitness-related material on your social feed isn’t as inspirational for your goals as you might assume.
After surveying 230 people who actively share their own health, fitness, and wellness journeys online, results showed that those who constantly saw workout posts from others were more likely to feel heightened concern about their own bodies. This was especially true if the posts they were seeing came from a person or people to whom the viewer felt a degree of similarity, making side-by-side comparisons more tempting, whether in terms of size or physical ability.
“A lot of us just kind of scroll through and see things passively. We might not realize that we’re internalizing it, and that it can be affecting our attitudes about ourselves.” —Tricia Burke, PhD, study author
“A lot of us just kind of scroll through and see things passively,” study author Tricia Burke, PhD, told Time. “We might not realize that we’re internalizing it, and that it can be affecting our attitudes about ourselves.”
Since seeing posts that make you feel inferior could easily affect your self-esteem, Dr. Burke said it’s important to be mindful of what you’re sharing online, as what you post can have the same effect on others, too. If you find following a bunch of fitness buffs is doing more harm than good for your mental health, don’t feel bad about unfollowing them—even if they’re friends. As much good as social media can provide (I mean, the breakfast-bowl inspo alone is amazing), it can also backfire. And if something doesn’t benefit you, what’s the point in using it?
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