by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
If you’ve followed my content over the years, you’d know I’m not a fan of social media fitness influencers. Many are disingenuous and only tell you what you want to hear to make some money. They’ll push every affiliate program out there if needed. I’m not sure how you can believe social media fitness influencers who have a vested interest in a company to push their products.
Additionally, many of these social media fitness influencers have no idea what they are talking about and make themselves sound smart simply because they have a decent physique. But honestly, I believe social media influencers have gone too far.
In this article, I’m going to break down how social media fitness influencers are hurting the industry and how social media is creating fake personalities.
Disclaimer: This article is my opinion, and not every social media fitness influencer is doing the things mentioned below. But unfortunately, many fitness influencers have taken things to the extreme in order to get more followers and likes.
Social Media Fitness Influencers Are Hurting the Fitness Industry
Social media fitness influencers can be completely destructive to the industry for several reasons, particularly when photoshopping images and spreading inaccurate or misleading information. Many of the things they present and talk about on these platforms are nothing more than a bunch of lies to either put money in their pocket or increase their follower count.
Below are some key points we should take a look at and understand:
1. Photoshopping and Editing Images
Many social media fitness influencers heavily edit their photos to appear more aesthetically pleasing or to hide areas of their body they aren’t happy with. This can create a distorted perception of what a healthy or fit body looks like (and that can be attained naturally), leading to body dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem among the followers of social media fitness influencers who compare themselves to these fabricated images.
2. Misleading or False Information
This is going to ruffle some feathers, but a good portion of social media fitness influencers lack proper education, qualifications, or expertise in fitness and nutrition but still provide advice and recommendations. That would be like you or I talking as if we were a doctor to people online. This can result in the dissemination of incorrect or potentially harmful information. Followers of these social media fitness influencers may be misguided in their workout protocols and dietary choices or even resort to extreme measures without understanding the potential risks that may be involved.
3. Sex and Nudity Sell
If you follow social media fitness influencers these days, your feed or explorer page is probably full of men and women who are nearly naked, in some interesting poses, or images that should probably be paid for through OnlyFans. Many of these social media fitness influencers are walking that fine line between being acceptable and being overboard when it comes to the social media guidelines with nudity. But it’s what gets them the clicks, views, and follows.
4. Product Endorsements Without Transparency
This particular section drives me crazy. Many social media fitness influencers collaborate with brands and promote products in their posts and videos. While there’s nothing wrong with that, some influencers fail to disclose their sponsorship or financial relationships, making it challenging for their followers to differentiate between genuine recommendations and paid endorsements. These days you’ll find people giving out multiple affiliate codes to put money in their pockets, and most of them probably have zero loyalty toward the brand, it’s just a commission check at the end of the month.
5. Promotion of Unhealthy Habits
Social media fitness influencers often promote quick-fix solutions or fad diets that promise rapid weight loss or muscle gain. Such approaches are rarely sustainable or healthy in the long term. They can create unrealistic expectations and encourage unhealthy behaviors, leading to a cycle of yo-yo dieting or, even worse, an eating disorder.
6. Lack of Individualization
Social media fitness influencers typically provide generalized advice that may not be suitable for everyone. Each person has unique needs, goals, and limitations, which should be considered when designing an exercise or nutrition plan. Following a one-size-fits-all approach promoted by influencers can lead to ineffective or potentially harmful outcomes. While I don’t genuinely believe social media fitness influencers are purposely pushing that what they’re saying works for everyone, they clearly fail to state that results may vary or mention specific people they would recommend trying what they’re talking about.
7. Emphasis on Appearance Over Health
Social media often focuses on external aesthetics rather than overall health and well-being. Social media fitness influencers, driven by the desire for popularity and engagement, may prioritize showcasing their bodies and physique transformations, sometimes at the expense of mental and emotional well-being. This narrow focus can reinforce the idea that physical appearance is the sole indicator of fitness and disregard other essential aspects such as strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.
Does Social Media Open Up the Door for Fake People and Personalities?
The short answer to this question is yes. But there’s a lot to unpack in the answer. Social media platforms can absolutely open up the door for fake people and personalities, especially when it comes to social media fitness influencers.
To go a little more in-depth with the answer, below are some reasons why:
Anonymity and Pseudonymity
Social media allows users to create accounts and personas without revealing their true identities. Anyone can create a fake account, use a fake name, not show their face, etc. This anonymity or use of pseudonyms can provide a veil of protection and make it easier for individuals to create fake profiles and present themselves in ways that are not genuine.
Social media platforms provide individuals with the ability to carefully curate and present their lives to the public. People can choose what aspects of their lives to showcase, selectively posting content that highlights positive experiences and hiding or omitting less desirable aspects. This selective self-presentation can create an idealized and inauthentic image of a person. It’s commonly mentioned that what you see on social media by social media fitness influencers is their highlight reel. They won’t show the struggles or losses they have.
Inauthentic Behavior for Attention and Validation
Some social media fitness influencers may engage in fake behavior, such as pretending to have a luxurious lifestyle, fabricating accomplishments, or seeking attention through controversial or shocking posts. This behavior is often driven by a desire for validation, popularity, or financial gain. Anyone these days can Photoshop themselves with their shirt off in Dubai or use Canva to do a Magic Edit and swap out the background to pretend you’re anywhere you wish, and it’ll look realistic. They’ll take photos in front of jets, luxurious vehicles, boats, and homes that aren’t even theirs.
Influence of Algorithms and Metrics
Social media platforms employ algorithms that prioritize certain types of content and reward high engagement. This can incentivize individuals to adopt fake personas, sensationalize their content, or engage in attention-seeking behavior to maximize likes, comments, and followers.
These days, social media fitness influencers will do anything to boost their follower count. That’s part of the reason they post some questionable material. That said, another trend they engage in is buying followers. Social media fitness influencers will pay good money to increase their followers by the thousands. Unfortunately for them, the overall number increases while their engagement and likes continue to stay incredibly low.