I have always been, uhhhhh, an enthusiastic Instagram user (19.8k posts at last glance, over the course of five or so years), and little has changed other than the fact that some of my more, shall we say, disposable thoughts can now be flushed down the toilet of Instagram Stories.
There is a more compelling reason for sticking with Instagram other than its cornucopia of cute bulldogs and as-it-happened makeup broadcasts, though. Insta has ended up playing a large part in my ongoing weight gain/weight training ~journey; it was an Instagram post, taken after last year’s Arnold Classic, that inspired this piece.
Since then, IG has provided an avenue for accountability (through sweat-soaked and red-faced selfies) that, say, texting gym selfies to friends wouldn’t. At the risk of sounding like one of those old ’90s Nike campaigns (“If you didn’t explode on the finish line, you didn’t try hard enough”, etc), the worse the photo, the better:
Instagram also keeps my eye on functional and strength training when my mind has a tendency to drift back to the scales/measuring tape during quiet moments.
Research has demonstrated that #fitspo posts typically play upon women’s sense of shame and self-hatred by presenting impossibly slim and fit bodies as aspirational, but footage of functional fitness –like the This Girl Can campaign– can get women working out.
I know that’s certainly been the case for me, as I follow a bunch of powerlifters/bodybuilders (@megsquats, @janaemariekroc) and watching them work out is far more powerful an inspiration than seeing Kayla Itsines posing with a green juice (I mean, I still follow her, too). So, in times of injury or plateau, is watching Jon Call (@jujimufu) setting fire to his squat rack:
As someone whose body (and physiotherapy bill) has been a site for the downsides of a sedentary or desk-bound lifestyle, it’s true that I am passionate about spreading the word – but I make sure to break up the gym selfies (however tomato-faced they are) with memes and videos of the neighbourhood birds enjoying the dog’s water bowl.
The broader key to IG’s place in my life, I think, is that nobody really comes to Instagram to read your 250-word screed about how the Woolies deli staff really screwed you over/it’s the anniversary of that time your ex said that one mean thing/your neighbour is pissing you off/why you will never go back to that one bar.
There’s something creative enough in the act of taking and uploading a photo that it seems to stop the “whine” synapses from firing; it’s just that little bit harder than sitting down to bleat out a whine the length of The Iliad in your Facebook status.
Facebook turned me into a chronic moper, sifting through “on this day” for some tragedy to relive via an extended status update; Twitter encouraged my worst tendencies towards arguing and “starting shit”. It’s very hard –for me, at least– to use Instagram as a site for miserablism.
Even with 19k posts and counting, believe it or not, I moderate my time on the ‘Gram. I reserve a half hour in the morning for viewing Stories (very helpful at maintaining a sense of intimacy when friends are stretched across the globe), and scrolling is limited throughout the day; Stories are where the dumb stuff goes.
And, even with sweaty gym selfies and the like, what’s even more consciously moderated these days –even if it may not seem that way from the outside– is how much of myself I reveal. No more crying selfies, no more deep thoughts about dating, no more TimeHop or “woe is me” flashbacks.
Heather Havrilesky’s advice to an Instagram addict is salient and kind: “As an artist and a user of social media and a person in general, it will […] give you the courage NOT to show the world everything at once. Because sometimes holding back a little, keeping a little for yourself, and treasuring it in the absence of an audience, is even more important than what you show.”
That’s why I’ll probably never shoot a video of me hitting a PR deadlift (or, god forbid, earnestly employ my most hated hashtag, #amwriting); some things are better left enjoyed by yourself or with friends and family, not the entire world.
And if you need a little more convincing as to why Instagram is okay by me, here is Exhibit A:
Your honour, I rest my case.