The Art of the Gym Selfie

By Perry F.

One day, while riding a stationary bike at the REC, I witnessed something completely bewildering. A girl, probably late teens-early twenties, walked onto a treadmill, then turned on the treadmill next to the one she had just claimed, and proceeded to let it run for the better part of the next half hour. Needless to say I was enthralled, while this case study took me far beyond my 15-minute warmup bike, I simply could not look away. Finally, after what felt like an absurdly long time to be taking snapchat selfies, she switched the moving treadmill off, took a video that contained both a shot of her, and the treadmill dashboard displaying her stats, dismounted the treadmill, and promptly left the gym. While her actions still mystify me to this day, the art of the gym selfie has ripped through American culture like a plague. Since snapchats release in 2011 combined with the integration of the front facing camera into modern cell phones, it’s easier than ever to give into the temptation to snap a selfie when you’re looking cut or trim. But why?

Symbolic/interpretive anthropology would view the ‘treadmill selfie’ as a symbol, more specifically, that this girl’s behavior is learned and shared, and that the ‘gym selfie’ is a recognized cultural phenomenon.[1] A Symbolic anthropologist like Geertz would view the ‘gym selfie’ as operating within a larger preexisting symbolic system, and look to define its significance.[2] He would argue that taking a selfie at the gym and sending it to others within your click is part of the framework that holds up our fitness culture across the country. It functions as a level of accountability to those around you. By saying ‘Hey, look what I did.’ In a picture, you are inspiring your friends to act as well as effectively guilt tripping those who are not. So why not just run? Symbolic anthropologists would take her specific actions as a sign that this photo gives her more social credibility, elevates her status amongst her peers, and is therefore more beneficial for her socially than just working out.

An anthropologist like Sherry Ortner would contextualize this women’s behavior using Practice Theory. In Practice Theory she outlines an intimate connection between social structure and human action, and examines how agency allows this girl to act and defy from within the system as an individual. [1] Clearly, this girl wanted to make her friends believe that she was working out, while she obviously did not want to at the moment. Ortner would argue that her actions are indicative of pre-existing social expectations, and that she is being dominated within a social hegemony. [2] While her actions are representative of her need to confirm her roll within this fitness culture as well as upholding it, her display of agency in rebelling against the rigid confines of the norms present within college social hierarchy is symbolic of this girl asserting her individual power over the system.

 

  1. http://anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29518604/About

 

  1. Class notes
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62 Responses to The Art of the Gym Selfie

  1. Lauren Smith says:

    Wow. As someone who spends quite a lot of time at the Rec, I have never experienced someone pull an act like this before! While I know what it is like to face societal pressure and feel the need to post selfies whenever I go to the gym, I think that this is taking it to a new level. I think that in this day in age, there is a lot of pressure from our peers to fit within the “healthy lifestyle”. For me, this construct really shows itself at the Rec. There are a lot of people there who really have been putting in the work to achieve what most in Boulder would consider “the ideal body”, and it can be hard to not want to take a few gym selfies so you’re followers know that you’re putting in work too.

    • kristin shapero says:

      I agree with Lauren that I also would consider myself someone who spends a decent amount of time at the REC and have never encountered anything quite like this story. It’s safe to say the gym selfies I do see have already been posted on someones Snap Chat story or Instagram and in my opinion, are typically trying to brag or “show-off” at the gym. I strongly agree that because of the rise of social media (especially Snapchat!) people start to normalize taking selfies everywhere, especially the gym as a way of constantly showing their followers what they are doing and where theyare. Overall, really well-written essay and I really liked how you were able to incorporate a first-hand experience from Boulder into your essay while connecting to the anthropological theories!

  2. Ian Cook says:

    This essay is well written and makes a lot of sense. I’ve noticed that the fitness culture is especially salient here in Boulder. It seems there is a lot of this kind of low-key (and sometimes high-key) pressure, such as you mentioned, to be fit and to enjoy fitness activities. The girl you discussed was a good example of this playing out. She clearly wasn’t interested in actually working out, but to meet the societal demands she made it look like she had. If there wasn’t this kind of pressure around her, she may not have felt the need to be deceptive about her practices.

  3. Sofija Andrew says:

    Interesting idea of how snapchat is a way to basically say “hey look what I did.” After deleting the app for three weeks for a class, I found myself wanting to send photos during the challenge for the weirdest reasons (like letting my friends know I saw such a cute dog or ran into an old teacher or my burrito was super good). It’s crazy how we have created this society of constant sharing and connection, feeling like we need to let others know what is going on in our lives, even the minute details. After the challenge I’ve actually decided to not download the app again because I honestly didn’t miss it in the end.

  4. Ashley Guillotte says:

    Wow! This is a pretty funny story but one that I experience quite often. It may not be at the gym but it seems as if taking pictures or videos of yourself in public to send to your friends is now a norm. I have noticed it just about everywhere I go. I think this essay does an excellent job looking at this phenomena, if you will, in different lenses and how different anthropologists make sense of this.

    • Ava Ogaz says:

      I agree that taking picture of your stats at the gym has become an epidemic. As if showing this off is proving your place in society. It was great how the writer brought in how these pictures act as a framework in American Society today. Practice Theory is a great Anthropological lens because it is a perfect example of saying one thing and doing another.

  5. Dante Dupont says:

    I find it really interesting how well this write up provides backing for an essay last round involving the pressure to be fit in this college. This provides a more in-depth look at a manifestation of this behavior using one person’s actions as an example. Some people seem, within the realm of fitness, seem to prioritize external validation and image rather than usual health benefits one would think of when at the gym. I also thought the last point on how the girl’s action represented both structure and agency was well thought out and could even be sed as a good example when explaining Practice Theory.

  6. Zoe Fleming says:

    The opening story of your essay mystified me as well, but as I thought more about it, and continued to read your essay, it is not as shocking due to the fitness culture we as Americans, especially those who live in Boulder, have been absorbed into. I really enjoyed your analysis of gym/work-out culture from the lens of the practice theory. The young lady you witnessed demonstrated agency within American society as she met the social expectation of working out by posting photos on her social media to show her friends and peers. Yet, at the same time she was rebelling against cultural norms as she in fact was not working out, displaying her power as an individual within the larger society. I think it would be interesting to analyze gym culture from a feminist anthropology lens and see whether gender changes these expectations. As well, it would be interesting to see how work-out culture differs across the United States and internationally. For example, I believe living in Boulder, individuals feel a heightened pressure to appear fit and healthy.

  7. Isabel Adkisson says:

    I’ve always heard of stories similar to the one at the beginning of your essay, but never actually seen the scene go down. It’s both surprising yet at the same time, unsurprising that this happened. I can definitely agree with others in the fact that Boulder is a place where there is a large fitness culture. I can understand how this girl wanted to make it seem like she was fitting into the fitness click. However, I also find it surprising that she was willing to go to this length to do this. Because Boulder is such a fit place, wouldn’t it make more sense for her to just actually work out in the first place to better fit into the fitness click? I’ll admit that I am guilty of the occasional gym selfie via snapchat, but I actually work out when I go to the Rec Center.
    I like how you used practice theory. I never would’ve thought of a gym selfie through this lens. Your analysis also helped me better understand how the theory can be applied with this very modern and relatable example.

  8. Riley Ferrero says:

    I have no doubts that scenes such as the one you watched unfold in the Rec Center occur broadly throughout today’s younger culture, which I find quite telling of social media’s influence. I agree with your proposition utilizing interpretive anthropology regarding the amusing (and often worrying) lengths to which people will go for a certain amount of likes. Such behavior is most certainly the most shared among my generation, as a wireless connection to our friend group(s) has allowed for the proliferation of activity and trends never seen before. It would only then follow that others learn from this behavior quickly and deeply, and also begin to falsify life events for the sake of claiming some of the whirling popularity on social media. I try to avoid this, as I think everyone should – keeping in mind the common expression of “You’re just looking at everyone else’s highlight reel while simultaneously concentrating on your own bloopers.”

  9. Libby O'Neall says:

    What a bizarre instance! I found the way that you analyzed from a symbolic perspective very intriguing. I had never considered the meaning behind a gym selfie, but after reading your essay, I agree that people use the picture as a chance to prove that they worked out and that they are participating in “gym culture.” I also like your analysis using feminist anthropology because I can relate. Before living in Boulder, I rarely felt the need to exercise. Not that I do not enjoy working out, but I do feel more of an obligation now that I am surrounded by others that do so.

  10. Eric Bulow says:

    Very creative idea for your essay! It is very accurate and sometimes it seems as though you really don’t work out if you don’t take a picture of yourself at the gym. I especially liked your use of symbolic theory to show that a gym selfie is part of a larger fitness culture. I had no thought of this idea previously but I realized how many symbols can be a grouped into a part of a fitness culture. I find it very intriguing to see how social media has changed so much of our daily lives and created new symbols.

  11. Cella DeSousa says:

    Wow. I honestly did not realize that people go to such lengths in order to elevate their social status in this day and age. Especially when it comes to fitting into Boulder’s athletic community. As someone who goes to the rec center a lot I’ve never been aware that some people only go to the gym to “fake” work out. I find your essay fascinating, mostly because of how you’ve tied the symbolic theory into your paper in order to give a new perspective on the overall athletic culture here as well as how social media has a huge influence on it.

  12. Jenna Jenkins says:

    After reading about the individual you witnessed at the gym, my attention was immediately captured. I have never heard of someone going to the gym with no intentions to actually workout and only to take selfies. However, this essay did make me think about one of the essays I read in the last round of essays. It was about the fitness/health culture in Boulder, which probably took a big part in why this girl felt that she needed to go to these lengths to show her peers that she had just “worked out”. Since living a healthy lifestyle is such a big part of so many peoples lives in Boulders culture she probably felt that it was something she needed to do in order to meet the societal demands.

  13. Riley Meisner says:

    This essay does a great job of tearing apart analyzing what is a very interesting part of American and Boulder culture. While this seems like an odd occurrence, there are a lot of individuals that feel pressured to uphold the same image as their peers. I think you made a really great point by talking about the role that technology plays in sharing experience. The picture itself symbolizes the endless and limitless communication between people in the modern U.S. By viewing this phenomena through the lens of Practice Theory, you show how this person is choosing the reproduce of challenge the system of body and fitness standards. By not actually completing the activity, one can tell that this person does not support the need for exercise for physical health. However, this person does reproduce the idea that exercise is a socially necessary activity. This is a very great insight to the college experience!

  14. Anna Kauffman says:

    Oh my goodness! I would hate to feel such a strong need to be validated on Snapchat. As someone who doesn’t use Snapchat that much, it is hard for me to imagine feeling that basic need. My brain just doesn’t function that way. To be honest, I have always been a little judgmental of the people who spend more of their time at the gym taking selfies than actually getting in exercise. But after reading this essay, I will be changing my way of thinking towards doing my best to understand why our culture has prompted people to prioritize meeting the need to prove themselves over going to the gym for a good work out.

  15. Julia Giltner says:

    I started laughing at this story about the girl you encountered at the gym because it is honestly sad and pathetic that some people feel the need to impress others so much that they would lie about working out and go to the gym JUST to take pictures! I think that our culture is so centered around impressing and one upping each other via social media that it has caused an unhealthy obsession with trying to “keep up” with our followers or friends. I think we can all do a better job of being more aware of how social media impacts our actions and our thoughts because it clearly can lead to some extreme behaviors. Overall, you had a great analysis of the gym selfie and I agreed with your interpretations on how this has been trending in our culture. Great job!

  16. Megan Goldin says:

    I think it’s interesting how you brought up the aspect of accountability when analyzing gym selfies, it is not an aspect that I would typically think about pertaining to this topic, but it definitely does. Although I often send snapchats when I am at the gym, I typically do not think about how they will effect the person viewing the picture. I haven’t taken into account that they may feel guilty that they are not working out as well when they view me there. However, on the other hand, I am also not trying to brag or showoff in my pictures, but rather just take a picture as I would any other picture at any location.

  17. Nicholas Abate says:

    I found your essay really interesting in the sense of other things people are willing to lie about to appear better than other people. Would someone take a photo of healthy food and claim it as their meal while snacking on chips behind the camera, or would one dress up on a nice day to appear “out-doorsey”? I believe this phenomenon may also stem from the idea that, especially in Boulder, you must always be looking to live the healthiest life possible. People who sit around all day are considered lazy while in actuality they may simply be introverted and prefer the quiet lifestyle. Regardless, excellent essay and you will certainly make me question photos of achievement that I see on Instagram and Snapchat now!

    • Sandeep Kaushik says:

      In a similar manner, it’s crazy to just consider the depth that some people are willing to take to simply fit into the image built up by social media. As discussed in the paper, this can be regarded as a cultural phenomenon, with the abundance of people sharing their fitness activities online, it’s no surprise that there is going to be a group of people who feel pressured to fit into the “gym-shark aesthetic”. Loved the essay and how it tears into the interwoven nature of social media, lifestyle, and the body.

  18. John Fitzmaurice says:

    I feel incredibly awkward reading this. It’s cringe-worthy to imagine that girl. Your observation is very astute and plays into a much larger problem and cultural transition which is hitting America. Instagram is pumping out fitness models who post stats and receive cash. Interestingly, Boulder has one of the highest eating disorder rates of the entire country and may be a by-product of the culture of hyper-fitness and outdoors enthusiasts. People have felt the pressure to fit in, and so conform in the only way we communicate now – through their phones. Practice theory was a perfect analysis of the girl’s FOMO and need to conform. Nice one.

  19. Isaac Zakin says:

    I like the personal touch of this one, taking something that just happened to you and analysing it. I should have done this. It makes the essay seem more valid because you were there and have expirienced this thing. I like the connections you make to over all selfie culture and think the essay flows very nicely. Would have been interesting to hear maybe about why the gym is an important place to people in general or the internet. But i really like the essay dnt he topic thought it was very original and insightful.

  20. Lynzie McKee says:

    I like how this essay elucidates on the idea that social media is more prevalent than actual actions, as expressed in the symbolic/interpretative analysis of gym selfies. I completely agree that social media has a huge influence on status within your peer group, even if posts aren’t directed at people you interact with regularly (like it is with most social media platforms). I think this ties in well with the other analysis using practice theory that suggests that posting on social media (when fake) is a way for individuals to use agency while abiding by a hegemonic system. They use their manipulation of the truth to conform to the standard of posts and social media. I think this analysis could even be taken a step further to include a feminist theory. It could be surmised that the expectation of social media is used to control women by allowing them to gain power (status) by conforming to gendered ideals. Overall, I found this essay to be very engaging and an excellent use of both theories presented.

  21. Kasey Braun says:

    This essay is really compelling and brings up the reality of what people do to keep a certain status on social media. I really like the anecdote at the beginning of this paper because it perfectly depicts the lengths that people will go to show that they are fit and culturally relevant. Even though this girl had no desire to work out, she had a reputation to uphold. I really enjoyed this essay because it shows that in a world now run by social media, not everyone is who you think they are.

  22. Makaira Holdren says:

    This was a very well written essay, with a interesting and compelling point. Our culture has made it so you feel compelled to show off everything you do in a day, and accentuate every aspect of it. This girl felt the need to go to the gym to show her friends she is fit, yet she skipped out on the beneficial part of going to the gym. All she did was prove she was there through gym selfies, and then take a video of her “run” to show she is active and in shape. This action then misleads other people to believe she is someone who cares about her health in fitness, while in reality she cares more about how others view her.

  23. Ezra Smith says:

    This was a very interesting article! As someone who visits the gym often I can agree that the gym selfie is heavily overdone. I feel like you choose an anthropological topic that is culturally relevant. I feel like it really fits into the hegemonic system and those who feel pressured to fit into Americans fitness ideas and almost ” flex” on others with their behavior.

  24. Megan Webb says:

    This was a really interesting topic to write about and one that I know I would never think of, I throughly enjoyed reading this. By using both of the theories you used, you were able to really break down the girls reasoning for not actually working out. This is honestly really crazy that you were able to see this happen in real life because I’ve only seen pictures taken later on, not necessarily the actual action. This was an all around really cool essay.

  25. Claire O'Grady says:

    This essay was really well written and very interesting! I’ve never seen someone do that at a gym, but I’ve definitely seen people take plenty of selfies or pictures of them working out. I like how you tied this phenomenon to both symbolic/ interpretive theory and practice theory. I think its interesting and to a good point how even though the girl didn’t actually run, she maybe just wanted to fit pre-societal norms and give the impression she works out. I think this phenomenon is also very present at Boulder. Because Boulder is known as being such a ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ city, it makes sense why maybe she feels pressure to fit those societal pressures despite her not actually wanting to workout. I think it’s also easier than ever to trick or convince people that you workout because of the rise and dominance of social media.

  26. Meg Joyce says:

    This was a beautifully written essay on a very relevant topic for college kids. The way you incorporated the addictiveness of snapchat in this article is very eye opening. The app really has become a way for people to “show off” and almost compete with each other to see who is doing cool, fun things. I go to the gym on a weekly basis and have definitely seen many “gym selfies,” but nothing as wild as this story! I do think the Boulder culture is more intense on being active than some other towns, and this pressure can be consuming and drive people to do things like this in an attempt to try to conform. Overall, this was a great essay that I really enjoyed reading.

  27. Lisa says:

    The opening paragraph to this essay is extremely funny and sets up the topic well. The story reflects american culture around fitness. I thought it was interesting that in the paragraph about symbolic anthropology you mentioned that people feel the need to make others feel guilty for not working out. I thought it also represents american culture surrounding technology, she used technology for a very mondaying task.

  28. joe archer says:

    Practice theory was an great theory to look at this topic. It was interesting to look at this girls’ behavior as both falling in line with social expectations but still acting with her own agency by not actually doing the exercise.

  29. Chris Shaw says:

    This essay portrays the social cravings that individuals in their late teens, early twenties on trying to be someone you’re not so you can fit in more socially with their peers/ friends. I also really enjoyed the symbolic reference to how the “gym selfie” shows more than someones true/ false progressions in the gym, it also gives others an incentive for them to do the same by going to gym and making a different or showing that they made a difference. Culture is viewed on how individuals act and if it seems motivating enough for others to follow, then that creates a cultural movement allowing many more to do the same by promoting their social media.

  30. Glenn Jones says:

    This is a very well-written essay. I like how your essay was based on something you saw firsthand; your approach is very much in line with Geertz’s emphasis on personal observation and dislike of “armchair anthropology.” I agree that exercising and being fit gives a person respectability, at least in certain circles (Boulder would definitely fall into this category). Also, you make a good point about the girl’s motivation being social–if she wanted to be fit, she would have actually exercised.
    Your analysis through practice theory was insightful, as well. Practice theory teaches that a given person’s actions might reinforce or challenge a hegemony, but it’s fascinating to see how a certain action can simultaneously do both.

  31. Tyler Mauer says:

    What a funny and interesting phenomena to witness! I find this topic especially enthralling as our generation’s involvement in the internet grows. People clearly feel pressured to present a certain persona online, which makes me wonder about the different discourses of our society. I enjoyed reading your analysis, thanks for the food for thought.

  32. Paige Scatena says:

    Although I have never seen someone do what you described above, it is extremely common to see people taking gym mirror selfies. I do find this very interesting that people need this social validation or credit for working out. It does seem that being able to post about it on social media motivates people to go to the gym and seeing these pictures might also motivate others to go to the gym. Although going to workout is a good thing, I think people shouldn’t feel so much social pressure to do so like the girl in your essay. Instead, I think people should want to go workout for themselves. Overall, this was a very well written essay and I found it very interesting.

  33. Lucas Rozell says:

    I’ve had almost the exact same experience at the rec! It’s fascinating to see the phenomenon explored like this. I enjoyed your use of both the theories you applied here. You merged Practice Theory and Symbolic Anthropology in an interesting way that shows how symbolism plays into maintaining social hegemony. Working out, especially in college, absolutely brings a certain level of social status, and it’s wild to see how far people will go for it. Overall, this essay was well written and very intriguing!

  34. Chad Brock says:

    That story is pretty crazy, its sad that the world we live in today where someone would lie about their work out just to look good over the internet and give a false reality to their followers that they are a great athlete. I really liked your analysis of symbolic and interpretive anthropology and how you explained that taking a picture is part of the framework for work out culture. I feel like the same goes for workout Instagram pages, we all know those kids who have an Instagram page specifically dedicated to just working out. Much like the gym selfie, it could be argued that a workout page on Instagram also holds together the framework for work out culture. Cool analysis and essay!

  35. Sky Rodriguez says:

    Wow. This is a pretty funny story. Symbolic anthropology is the perfect theory to explain this phenomenon. I realized the selfie game is not only for workouts but also for food, trips, and lifestyle. Social media is becoming a significant part of our life and our personality, and this is one of the things that lead us to show the side of us that we wish people to see and aspire to be. The question is, what does this selfie mean? She needed to satisfy a need, and this is not a bad thing. We all do it differently, although it feels like the selfie game is quite common.

  36. Beau Beritzhoff says:

    Fitness culture is something that has always fascinated me. I spend a lot of time at the rec and often see the “gym selfie” being performed. I understand that people work very hard in the gym and they want to show off their efforts but there becomes a point where it is excessively over the top. As you mentioned, “the gym selfie has become a framework that holds up our fitness culture” and while I do completely agree with that statement, I also hate how true it is. I feel like people are beginning to work hard and look a certain way only for the image, and not for themselves. Everything has to be an act nowadays …

  37. GC Masciantonio says:

    This essay made me question the actions of myself. While I do maybe take a snapchat photo of the gym, I have never caught myself posting my weights, stats, etc. in order to effectively “guilt trip” my snapchat friends. This surprised me, and the way you incorporated the cultural theories was very effective in your writing. I do agree with your symbolic anthropology point about how she desired social approval rather than working out, and it opened my eyes to believe that this is a widely known practiced culture.

  38. Nathan Davis says:

    I found this essay very interesting, and definitely is something that I have seen before to some extent but never quite like this. I think looking at the huge impact that social media has on society and culture in the U.S. today is super intriguing. I think that people try very hard to boast a life that seems far more lavish and accomplished than it truly is in order to compete with all of the other people on social media who they see bragging about their lives and want to compete in some way.

  39. Oliver Stutz says:

    I find it hard to believe that someone would actually fake a workout just for a photo to send to a friend to show that one just worked out. Most treadmills at the REC are new and equipped with weight sensors, meaning they automatically turn off when no weight is detected running on it for safety reasons. Regardless of that, the “gym selfie” is at an all-time high right now. Are people going to the REC to actually better their health, or just for the snapchat that tells all their friends that they worked out that day? If the “gym selfie” is motivation for people to go to the REC then so be it. No matter what the reason, getting people to go inside the gym, working out or just taking pictures, is harmless. I’m sure most of us catch ourselves taking the classic gym picture now and than. People are falling victim to social pressures at a very high rate these days, and that can be dangerous, although this example of social pressure is benign.

  40. Anna Morelock says:

    This made me laugh thinking that someone would actually do this. I think symbolic/interpretive anthropology was a great choice to analyze this scenario. When people take pictures or videos but don’t share them with anyone, the picture doesn’t mean a lot. But once it is posted and shared with people, it automatically has meaning and significance associated with it, and each person who views that video will interpret it in a certain way. Clearly this girl wanted her video to symbolize something to the people she shared it with, I just wish people didn’t feel the need to cheat like this in order to get recognition.

  41. Jordan Cote-Long says:

    I really enjoyed how your essay was based off of a personal story. I can definitely imagine that happening at the gym here! Now thinking about it, when I go to the gym, I often see people mostly taking pictures of themselves rather than just working out. I loved all your points especially about it elevating social status which makes sense because we are in boulder!!

  42. Theodore Gonzales says:

    I think that the presenting of the hegemonic system present in Boulder, which expects people to include themselves in the fitness culture, in both sets of essays shows that such a system exists and it is especially impactful in Boulder. It was presented in the last set in which the author hinted at there being potential health risks with the system, as some are encouraged to eat less or not enough to fit the body type expected in boulder. I think that your analysis of the gym selfie was well done, especially your noting of the ability of the “gym selfie” to promote/encourage the fitness culture and sort of uphold it. I think a further analysis of the gym selfie could be expanded to areas of Instagram pictures of meals, clothing, concerts, or any other often photographed and socially shared thing would offer more insight to how social media encourages norms or develops new hegemonic systems.

  43. Katie Lynch-Dombroski says:

    This is a really interesting experience you had! One that I think I’ve heard about online but it’s funny you experienced it in real life. You did a great job of using the theories to explain this phenomenon. Without photo sharing apps, sharing our workouts would probably be way less common. Since you explained that it’s a status thing, it is now actually encouraged so much one would be influenced to lie about it just for credit. It is interesting how it is explained with practice theory. I would have initially thought she is just playing into the system but since she didn’t actually exercise she is kind of rebelling against it. A good example of something I wouldn’t have connected before.

  44. Evan Fleming says:

    This is a great story. I took my friends camping while they were out here and it freaked them out that we wouldn’t have service for 3 days. They were bummed the whole time because they couldn’t share or post anything we were currently doing. They missed the whole experience because they couldn’t get outside recognition. The fact that society has put such an emphasis on presenting a good online image, even if it is fake, is appalling and I find your interpretation of the act very thorough.

  45. Dylan Zamora-Silva says:

    People in Boulder are pretty subject to cultural stress regarding fitness. Both men and women in this city are highly active and capable of great endurance sport. I’m not surprised that people wan’t to be perceived as part of the predominant group in the population. I really enjoyed reading your story, great job on the interpretations.

  46. Cheyenne Smith says:

    I really enjoyed the personal story, it really put the theories and ideas into context. Personally, I have never seen anyone act like this at the gym but it seems to pop up on social media a ton. I completely agree with the idea that the gym selfie is an unspoken symbol of accountability in this fitness driven community. However, it is pretty upsetting that social media is used as a method of accountability rather than intrinsic motivation. Fitness should be something to feel good, not show off – just goes to show the impact social media and technology has on our actions.

  47. Isabella Parker says:

    I though this essay was really well written. I enjoyed reading it and thought it was interesting. I have noticed this in Boulder when I go to the gym because I feel the pressure to be fit or at least to present yourself as you are is important in the community. So many people work out constantly or play sports and if you can’t be present in a conversation about those things it can be very difficult and people can feel excluded or isolated. If you can fake it than you are at least presenting yourself as somebody who works out a lot which in a social setting can go a long way. Still very strange that people go to these lengths instead of just working out but is interesting non the less. It certainly is a big teller in regards to the Boulder culture.

  48. Brandon Stavig says:

    I really appreciate the prospect of using your “case study”. Its a fun little homage to the pieces we have read and truly the root of great anthropological works. I think this is particularly topical here in Boulder considering the strive for the health and fitness appeal, but this connotation is not just localized here in Boulder. When I was out during spring break and told people I was from going to school in Boulder the next question was usually whether I skied or climbed or biked. There is big pressure to look active and fit for our generation in addition to the stigmas already associated being at Boulder forms a recipe I think that unfortunately encourages events like this.

  49. Brendan Radcliffe says:

    I really enjoyed reading this essay, it seemed to me to pull on a similar idea that the Fitness essay in the last section of essays did. The idea being that fitness culture in Boulder is so prevalent that people will do absurd things just to show that they are “fitting in” to the cultural norm. I’ve never heard of someone going as far as to turn on an empty treadmill just to say they had worked out! I thought you did a great job at using practice theory to explain how people feel forced into working out because of a gym selfie. It really shows how much we want to be accepted by our peers and how far some people will go to get that exception.

  50. Kira Lowe says:

    Wow… In all my years of going to the gym I have to say I’ve never seen someone do that in person, and that’s a relief. Although, if I did see someone doing that I probably could not help but cringe a little bit. I haven’t seen that in person, but I have seen the result of it on social media. The concept that if you don’t have pictures to prove you were somewhere, were you actually? It’s interesting to me that younger generations feel the need to prove they have done/ accomplished something or been somewhere by recording it and posting it for hundreds of people to see. For example I notice it when I go to concerts, or watch a pretty sunset. People are too busy looking at things through their phones they don’t take the time to truly appreciate it. The same goes for the gym, if you’re only going there to show you have been there, you’re not actually using the gym for what it’s made for – working out, getting sweaty and gross, and praying you don’t run into a cute guy or something. Really good essay!

  51. Claire Kennedy says:

    I think this is a great analysis on the culture of selfies and proving yourself to your social followers. In this day and age, people have become so infatuated with showing their healthy and fit lifestyles to the people around them. Just thinking about it, there are so many social media influencers who base their social medias off of their “healthy” lifestyles. It almost makes you wonder if they actually live that healthy of a life, or if they are just putting on an act for their followers.

  52. David Rathbun says:

    I really enjoyed this essay because I too have witnessed the same thing. People just “do it for the gram.” The idea of domination in social hegemony was an interesting point, but could also be said for some men at the gym. Everyone seems to be competing at the gym, as well as on social media for the best body. Not only having the best body, but showing you have an active lifestyle to the world definitely plays into social hierarchy.

  53. Madison Moriarty says:

    I really like your essay topic, as I have seen many things similar but nothing this intense. This can be linked back to so many things that are done only to post about, as social media is peaking people living in the moment is plummeting harshly. For this age group in particular enjoying what one is doing on a normal day is so much less because it is so easy to share with others and instead of enjoying the moment the main thing on ones mind is getting the perfect picture to impress people on their social media. It is truly sad that the world is coming to this. I have seen many things like this such as getting to the top of a hiking mountain and instead of enjoying the view people take many pictures of themselves. I hope something puts an end to this soon.

  54. Jenny Granston says:

    I liked the observation here that symbols can be used to confer a culturally accepted idea without that idea actually being ‘true’. That is to say: the creation of the complex and seemingly bizarre illusion the author witnessed is a testament both to the power of symbolism in a modern, technologically-advanced world, and the power of the innate desire to conform to societal expectations– by creating the illusion of working out in front of you, the woman you observed communicated to her friends that she was conforming to their expectations of going to the gym, while communicating to you that the mere appearance of doing so was more important than the action itself.

  55. John Fallon says:

    I found this article and your observation very interesting. It baffles me that people would try so hard to look “cool” or “in-shape” that they would run a vacant treadmill simply for a snapchat post of it. Unfortunately I am also guilty of trying to “flex” on social media by sending my friends pictures or videos that make it seem as if I am having a lot more fun than I am having. I believe that society today has led to this and has caused an increased amount of pressure to show others that you are having a good time. It is a strange phenomenon, but I feel as though almost everyone is guilty of this to some extent.

  56. Brooke Thurman says:

    This is such an interesting topic! I think the connection you made to Practice Theory was very strong, as your story demonstrates how people often conform to hegemonic practices even when they don’t necessarily want to. The girl at the rec obviously did not want to be running on the treadmill, but had the desire to conform to the healthy lifestyle and ideals of fitness that are ever so glorified especially here in Boulder. I look forward to a good workout to relieve stress and have some time to focus on myself, but there are certainly some days that I feel that getting a good sweat in is more of something I should do rather than something I necessarily want to do, which I think has to do with the constant praise given in our society to people that are fit and healthy.

  57. madison flicker says:

    I can honestly say that I have never seen anything, but I will now keep an eye out for it! I go to the rec almost everyday, and they amount of time people spend on their phones in the gym is astounding. Like you said It has become a cultural norm, to take a selfie and showcase whatever it is you’re doing. I think you connected practice theory extremely well and the idea of conforming regardless of if they want to. Great job!

  58. may seigel says:

    This essay was funny while also being informative. Selfies are so prominent in today’s society and the motives behind this social phenomenon are rarely discussed. I think similar things could be said about the sharing of images on social media in general. People feel the need to prove to others that they are living fun, exciting, lives, doing things. Photos of anything from someone’s dinner to a selfie of a new hair do play the purpose of proving to others something about your life. It’s not rare to see people snapping pics of their food when it arrives to their table before even taking a bite to see if they actually like it. It’s not about the reality of what is going on, but instead it’s more about proving to others that you’re going out and enjoying fancy meals. I like how you addressed that people conforming to this social practice don’t necessarily want to, but they feel the pressure and assume that people want and need to see what they are doing on a daily basis.

  59. Divya S. says:

    I think it’s great that someone finally decided to talk about this topic. As someone who spends a decent amount of time at the REC, and does not look picture-perfect while doing so, I tend to see people lying on the mats on their phones rather than actually working out. Although I have definitely been guilty of doing this occasionally, I definitely agree that society has pressured us to perform a certain way and sometimes people do go to drastic lengths to achieve this. It definitely has to do with proving something which I think was important to include and I’m glad you did. Really good job!

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