#Instafit: body building culture comes to Instragram

instagram logo Over the last few months that I’ve been slowly falling in love with the social photo sharing site Instagram.  It’s a simple little mobile application that allows you to take, edit, and share photos with your friends and the larger Instagram community.  Interestingly there are actually several applications that allow you to take photos and apply filters to make your pictures look pretty, but only Instagram has gotten the social aspect right.  (Examples of other applications include: Hipstamatic, PhotoShop Express, and Camera by SmugMug.)

Never mind that Instagram doesn’t necessarily have the best filters to be applied to doctor up their photos, it’s the social element that has made it a big success.  Instagram intrigues people with the process of discovering new photos and users, as well as the excitement and validation from receiving multiple likes on your photos.  From art to nature photos, from travel to food porn, and from pictures of couples and friends – Instagram has it all. Of all these areas to discover, one trend has certainly caught my eye: the body building community.

IMG_6053The body building community has been around for a long time (at least since the 1970’s in the U.S.), but the rise of social networks and body-building forums have allowed this dispersed community of bodybuilders to come together virtually. They trade advice on workout routines and nutritional supplements in body building forums, as well as complement and comment on each other’s progress on weightlifting goals by posting pictures in common sites. With the advent of Instagram its become that much easier for these folks to find, comment, and follow each other.  These bodybuilders comment on each other’s pictures with encouragement like: “great pic! Keep posting!”, “sick abs, great job man”,  “what’s your workout routine like, have any IMG_6054tips?” and some that become a little more directly sexual like “U are gorgeous”, “I think U so sexy”, and “take off the pants & underwearrr”.  The funny thing about this is that many of these body builders, who are purportedly heterosexual, receive just as many of these comments from girls as they do from guys. They write in their personal bios: “just me tryna get big”, “shrugs not drugs”, “fitness and music keep me young”, “forever young”, “follow me on twitter”, “add me on kik”.

There are also a few super users making a name for themselves by re-sharing other bodybuilders’ photos and then encouraging their followers to like and follow the featured body builder of the day. Examples of these include “RuIMG_6055ffRoad”, “CuteBoys” and “HotGuysWorld”. (They may be walking a fine line of ethical & legal rules because it seems some of them get taken down from time to time.) Many users use hashtags (#) in the descriptions of their photos to tag their photo as discoverable for a certain theme. Bodybuilders are not the humble sort, but rather into self promotion using tags like: “#model, #sexy, #sixpack, #hottie, #muscle, #picoftheday, #stunning, #adorable, #instaboys, and #instafit.

Most of this is all fine and good. However there are certainly some troublesome things brewing in here. First of all there is the very likely possibility that many of the pictures being shared and re-shared are of underage youth (below 18 years old) and their pictures are being consumed and sexualized by adults. Second, many young adults and teenagers are now becoming part of this hyper-sexualized and steroid enhancing world – which is putting them at risk. The kid in this last photo here definitely looks barely 18. The NY Times had a nice article on this a while back: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/19/health/teenage-boys-worried-about-body-image-take-risks.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

And since this website starting as a hipster-bashing blog I feel that I should mention my college friend’s site: http://definitionhipster.com/ and Instagram handle: DEFINITIONHIPSTER.  His weinstagram photo missionbsite allows people to submit pictures of people and then vote on on a scale of 1 to 10 on how hipster they look in the photo.

You can also follow my Instagram: MISSIONHIPSTERS. I apologize in advance if you got to my profile hoping to find shirtless pictures of dudes, sorry you won’t find any there.