The Anti-Fitspo Project: I’m a Fitspo Fraud

Long Read: I spent seven weeks posting as a Fitspo blogger and seriously questioned my existence.

 

 

Fitstory

Fitness inspiration or, fitspo, as it is more commonly referred to, is a recent social media phenomenon (Duca 2013). Fitspo’s inception rose to prominence after social media platform, Instagram, placed a ban on hash tags (the mechanism used to categorise a post), which encouraged eating disorders amongst users (Reynolds 2016). It is uncertain whether the fitspo trend began in response to Instagram’s bans, or if more simply, this hashtag increased in popularity as more users gravitated towards it – as a result of to the ban. Despite its origins, psychologists aren’t completely sold on the belief that fitspo is a representation of health (Reynolds 2016).

I first came across fitspo hashtags four years ago while self-documenting (and quantifying) my own weight loss, through calorie counting apps and posting progress photos on my personal Instagram account. Since those initial posts four years I’ve noticed an increasing amount of health focused content on Instagram. From health promotion Instagram feeds, teenagers monetising their accounts, to dieting bloggers and the increase in body awareness, a whole new culture of online fitness has emerged.

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The Fitspo Fraud

 

The Rise of #Fitspo

Fitness inspiration or, fitspo, as it is more commonly referred to, is a recent social media phenomenon. It began after social media platform, Instagram, placed a ban on hash tags (the mechanism used to categorise a post) which encourage eating disorders amongst users. It is uncertain whether the fitspo trend began in response to Instagram’s bans, or if more simply, this hashtag increased in popularity as more users gravitated towards it – due to the ban. Despite its origins, psychologists aren’t completely sold on the belief that fitspo is a representation of health.

Many amongst the psychological field believe that fitspo is a more insidious reincarnation of pro-eating disorder hashtags. They state that while employing social media to promote health is not damaging, it is misguided to reinforce personal health solely based social media interaction. Psychologists consider the fitspo format to be almost identical to pro-eating disorder hashtags. “The bulk of body imagery used in Fitspo shares many of the same qualities as thinspiration: promoting a very lean physique, through often objectified and sexualised images” (Gall, 2015).  While other health professionals are more concerned with fitspo’s ability to trigger eating disorders amongst recovered survivors. The latter emphasises existing arguments that social media’s ‘like’ function serves as a detrimental form of online validation. This theoretically, points towards the incidence of polarisation, or more deeply, Cass Sustein’s notion of cybercascades.

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Who gets to suffer? Terrorism outside of the Western world.

Last Friday I wished one of my closest long-time friends off to London for a working holiday, after leaving Sydney Kingsford Smith airport I learnt about the terror attacks which had just unfolded in Brussels. Naturally I was a little uneasy thinking of my friend about to board an international flight minutes after a terror attack, but my concern was subsided by the time I arrived back home. I rationalised that Heathrow would step up security and the likelihood of another attack was extremely low. Yet the media aftermath was all too familiar; news outlets’, shockingly non-objective, reports could have used the names Brussels and Paris interchangeably. As the comics and hash tags started to pour across my social media feeds, I began to wonder where this horror and rage was just more than a week prior to this attack, when Turkey experienced its fourth terror attack in less than six months.

Again I was drawn to this thought yesterday (almost a week later) when I heard of the Lahore park suicide bombing on Al Jazeera news. A suicide bomber had killed at least 70 people at a public park in Lahore, Pakistan. But there has been no articles, opinion pieces, hash tags or comics. Only two articles made my newsfeed today, from SBS and Al Jazeera, shared by two facebook friends who deemed this attack worthy of sympathy. I am yet to see #JeSuisLahore, which brings me to question who, in the eyes of our media, is allowed to suffer?

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Quantifying Weight Loss #myfitnessjourney #fitspo

In 2012 I was fat. Not in the typical teenage self-deprecation sense. I was in all senses of the word fat. I graduated from my senior years of high school 30 kilograms heavier than I was in grade ten. It didn’t take long for the penny (or pizza box?) to drop, I began to change my eating and exercise habits and the kilos began to shed. I also started to log my meals and both work out intensity and duration. Being the typical teenage media consumer these entries were made via apps on my (then) iPhone 4s.

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But in the four years that I’ve been self-quantifying my own weight loss, apps and accounts targeting this audience have exploded. From health orientated instagram feeds, teenagers monetising their accounts, to dieting bloggers and the increase in body awareness, a whole new culture of fitness has emerged. The Australian fitness industry earns itself one billion dollars in revenue and has been growing 3.5% since 2011. Many accredit this boom with the role of wearable technology and the new social media focus. Last year there was over 165,000 health and fitness related applications available on iTunes and android stores. Of these apps, three quarters targeted wellness and fitness. Some industry insiders believe this phenomenon is linked with the desire to better ourselves, with wearable technology inhibiting our ability to monitor ultimately leading to self improvement. However this urge for self-improvement is not without it’s pitfalls.

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How reporting ‘terrorism’ leads to racism

One of the great things about technology and media is that we are able to report or listen to events as they unfold in real-time. Especially since the rise in 24 hour news bulletins it’s hard to find events which will capture the readers attention for a long time.

The Sydney siege was a particularly interesting event, because it happened in such close proximity to a news headquarters. However this also put a strain on reporting ethics, as the decision to report ‘facts’ as they happened had potential ‘to do significant harm to Muslim Australians if mishandled, through the magnification of inaccurate information, prejudicial tropes and myths’ (Posetti, 2014).

As the events of the siege unfolded, reporting stayed neutral, with many news outlets refusing to report speculated details, at the request of NSW police. There were many live blogs, news feeds, and ABC had their 24 hour news bulletin as a live telecast of the location. Posetti states ‘despite elements of sensationalism and risky initial reportage of police manoeuvres the comments I heard on an ABC radio stream from one of their reporters demonstrated proper professional caution’ (2014).

There were also think pieces published about the reporting both during and after the event.

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Ethics aren’t that much of a drag

Ah, ethics, that whole ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ thing, when you think about it, it’s not actually all that boring. As much as some people whinge about ethics classes, when you consider the violent history mankind endured, before basic human rights were enshrined in international treaties, it’s pretty great that we are forced to take them. As much as ethics can make things difficult in terms of researching – House knows what I’m talking about – the fact that we are obliged to educate ourselves about them is a good thing.

Lets not forget that it was Nazi Germany, which brought about the first agreement between nations, setting the standards of what’s right and wrong. So if you’re anything like Dr. House it’s easy to complain ‘ugh why do we have do talk about this stuff’, but it’s important to remember that it’s necessary because without ethics horrible things can happen.

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The problem with identifying racism and ‘othering’

Contemporary racism in Australia is closely linked to the media portrayal of security issues. Australia has moved on from the blatant out-dated racism witnessed through policies of protectionism and assimilation. Now racism resides within the stories of Australia’s security (Jakubowicz, 2011). We have progressed beyond slogans advocating Indigenous dispossession, to ‘stop the boats’ and more recently to discussion of Islamic terrorist threats to our borders. These media depictions have had explosive reactions in the past (Jakubowicz, 2013). One could argue that the media conversations, which lead to the Cronulla Riots in 2005, have been mirrored in the coverage of the Sydney siege event.

The biggest issue with identifying racism within media is that it is often difficult to recognise racism at an individual level. It is particularly difficult to recognise low-level racist attitudes when they are accepted by our institutions and disseminated by governmental policies and the media (Jakubowicz, 2011).

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BCM’s back baby!

Another year, another BCM subject, another blogging task!

This session I’m taking on ‘Research Practices in Media and Communication’. It also weirdly aligns my other majors (Human Geography) ‘Population Geography’ subject, in which we study people, population trends, etc. This also means that I get to study research methods twice! Yay, love me some questionnaire design.

Anyway, moving along, what is media research?

When I think of media research for some reason my mind wanders to Mad Men. You know, the one-way mirror, the interview rooms with people in white coats hiding behind furniture with clipboards. I think of media research as observation. Or maybe I’m just a creep at heart.

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Faking the balance

This post will discuss the balance presented within our media and questions whether contested issues are really contested or just skewed.

 

There’s no denying that the media plays a very influential role in shaping the debate around issues and the general populations opinions. Yet the discourse surrounding climate change has been shaped on a false balance (Ward 2009). As Ward (2009, p. 14) explains “in reporting on climate change and the findings in the physical and earth sciences defining it, US reporters [sic: consistent with Australian reporters] for many years practiced what critics contend is a “false balance”, providing space disproportionate to its scientific credibility to perspectives running counter to what is now widely accepted as the “established” scientific judgement’. Therefore reporters have been balancing opinions about science when in fact they would have been better off evaluating and reporting evidence based science (Ward 2009, p. 14).

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