Girls go to the gym for a variety of reasons: To get in shape, build muscle, have a nice body, be healthy, feel productive, and feel good about ourselves. And we'd be lying if we denied that half of us partly go in our matching workout fits for the purpose of taking our gym selfies for social media.
I'm taking a Byrne Seminar this semester called Selfies and Digital Culture, which essentially is a chill class where I get credit for blogging my selfies and discussing how the phenomenon of the selfie has become such an integral part of our culture. Selfies were something that I never gave much thought to. But now whenever I go to take a pic, this class has me questioning myself and contemplating why I am so compelled to take selfies.
It got me thinking about how I always grimaced at girls whose Snap stories consisted of their daily gym selfies, flexing and showing off an hourglass figure. Sure, as someone who fully enjoys starting their day at the gym, I am guilty of an occasional work out pic, but I'd be quick to laugh at those who spend a solid few minutes in front of the mirror in the middle of the gym.
My mom laughs at me when we're out in public together and I outstretch my arm to take a flick of myself. It's a constant chorus of, "You're so obsessed with yourself, Lauren," and, "Who are you even sending those to?" And well I can see how some view the act of selfie-taking as a sign of being conceited, I believe the reason why so many people feel the need to do it is because it's an act of empowerment. If you wake up and take a good selfie, you know its a good day, because you're looking good and feeling good. So if taking selfies is just as empowering as going to the gym, why should gym selfies be so frowned upon? For many having a better appearance is the primary reason for working out, so what is so bad about showing that off while you're there?
One of the problems with social media's absolute consumption of our lives is the desire to compare ourselves to what we see on social media platforms. It is an inherent need, as we all strive to be the prettiest looking, most athletic, smartest, or best we can be in whatever we do. Unfortunately, social media such as Instagram, in particular, gives us a false sense of idealism, promoting an inferiority complex for onlookers. We constantly see our feeds filled with perfect bodies, relationships, material objects, and lives. Comparing ourselves to others is human nature, and it would be almost impossible not to. However, if we don't keep our self-comparisons in check, seeing these euphoric lives can be toxic to our mental health.
Even though social media can have a harmful effect on one's self-esteem, the primary reason to post on social media is to achieve a sense of pride. There is something satisfying about being able to look back through your Instagram and remember all the memories you've had because each photo is an event that you've shared. There is also a sort of egotistically fulfilling aspect of knowing that you have shared these experiences with so many people. Whether it be the number of likes, followers, or comments, these quantities have a subconscious effect on social media users' state of mind, whether we admit it or not. Taking selfies gives us this same sense of gratification, which is why we want to post our pictures from the gym.
I've come to the conclusion that if using gym selfies as a vehicle to show off your body is what motivates you to be a better version of yourself, then I'm all for it. People take to social media, especially with selfies, for the purpose of feeling good about themselves. The gym should not be an exception. And there's nothing better than documenting your workout progress in photos. The way I see it, if you work hard for the body you have, there shouldn't be anything wrong with taking selfies for the purpose of self-empowerment.