Social media is NOT killing your sport

social media
Some people say Instagram posts like this make them never want to do yoga again. Photo by Johnie Gall

I'll be the first to admit I have an addiction to Instagram. Not in a "I need that coffee or I will implode" kind of way, but in a sort of nagging, back-of-the-brain tug that causes my fingers to double-tap away mindlessly whenever I'm bored. Or stuck in the line at the grocery store.

Due to the nature of my work and interests, my Instagram feed has exploded with imagery from far-off places, often featuring people doing outdoor activities of such a grand and daring scale that I'll probably only ever dream of following suit. I follow women who climb mountains in Ecuador, and men who jump out of airplanes and eat snakes for fun (oh wait, that's just Bear Grylls again). And I find it pretty dang inspiring.

Fast forward to yesterday when I came across an article from a disgruntled Instagram-following writer, who argues that social media actually turned her against yoga.

"My Instagram is filled with selfies of women in teeny bikinis, with their legs spread wide, some doing handstands on top of surfboards …" she writes. "I am bombarded with breasts, butts, and crotches, all attempting to compete with each other."

She says that by taking these "over sexualized, yoga posing selfies," women make it impossible for other women to feel good about practicing yoga.

Huh? Am I reading that right? So because a few women struck a Warrior 2 pose in a bandeau top, the author has sworn off yoga for good?

I understand that she's comparing the way bikini-clad women in extreme poses could be setting a seemingly impossible standard much in the same way super models made size-0 jeans the "norm"—but to not want to try something at all just because someone is more skilled than you are? That's like saying you'll never wear shorts again because you saw Miranda Kerr wearing a pair—why even bother leaving the house?

It's true: There will be Instagram users who use their outdoor and fitness pursuits to compete and boast. But I think the majority of users just want to share their experience, to inspire others and to spread interest in the sports they love. In fact, I probably never would have tried mountain biking—a sport I considered completely intimidating and male-centric—if I hadn't started following a few female riders on social media. For me, Instagram has an opposite, encouraging effect.

Social media is what you make of it—if you want to try something, don’t let someone else's physical appearance and progression hinder you. If you do, you'll create excuses. Don't confuse your insecurities with other people's passions.

And if you really can't stand one more rock climbing, surfing, SUP yoga selfie?

Well, there's always that handy "unfollow" button. Just saying.

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