Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 28 May 2016

Gemma Styles: Are We Socially Shaming Ourselves Into Self Improvement?

Gemma Styles: Are We Socially Shaming Ourselves Into Self Improvement?

The Debrief: By sharing our good intentions on social media, we're forcing ourselves to see them through...

Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

It's a well known fact that we share the best parts of ourself on social media, whether it's a favourable side profile or just doing something more useful than watching telly. But what about when we post the less glamorous stuff - taking the bits that we don't like about ourselves and actually trying to make them better. 

It might not be quite this difficult. Starting marathon training isn't something to be ashamed about (even if you can't make it to the end of the road yet, me) but is a massive undertaking that requires huge dedication. Either way, telling other people you're doing something is a cementing act that kind of means you have to follow through... Is it shaming ourselves into action or sort of bragging about how good we're being? In any case it seems like a public declaration of doing something is a good way to make sure you've got an audience cheering you on... Or judging you when you quit. Motivationally judging.

I can personally vouch for this. Way back a couple of autumns ago, I was at work on the first of October and suddenly thought about doing Macmillan Cancer Support’s Sober for October fundraiser. It being 11am or so, I hadn’t had a drink (clearly not a boozy brunch day) and before I could change my mind or be swayed by that week’s plans, I tweeted it - with the idea being that once it’s out there and you’ve said it, it’s harder to renege on your being-a-good-person plans. 

While my example of motivational judgment was a charitable one, which I think made it easier to stick to, there are also people using social media to hold themselves accountable for their own personal quests. While I was resisting the temptation of a cocktail or two, Simone Anderson was having drastic stomach surgery, as part of starting a two-year health mission. Simone, a 25-year-old woman from New Zealand, has captured the attention of the internet by using Instagram (@simone_anderson) to share her weight loss journey, which has so far documented her shedding 14 stone over the past two years. Simone started her account, which she calls her ‘Journey to Health’ back in 2014 at the age of 23; she writes that she has completely changed her lifestyle, diet and exercise as well as having a gastric sleeve procedure in October 2014. And I thought skipping the booze was a tough one. 

Speaking to BBC Newsbeat, Simone talked about the accountability that sharing her story gave her: 'I made an account and I pressed publish after four or five days of crying - but the minute I pressed publish it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew this time there was no turning back.'

Starting off at 169kg (about 26 stone 9 lbs), Simone felt that she was unhealthy and that she needed to undertake a general overhaul of her health, in all areas. Since her massive weight loss she has also had surgery to remove a lot of the loose skin on her upper body, which is impossible to shift with diet and exercise, but she says the skin she has left on her bum and thighs reminds her how far she's come.

As well as helping her to stick to her health kick, Simone has been able to help inspire others to give themselves an MOT in the lifestyle department, posting healthy recipes and gym exercises to give people an extra insight into the reality of healthy, sustainable weight loss. Reading the comment section on her Instagram and seeing other people's pictures that she shares it's easy to see the impact and influence she's having on her followers. Bloody good on her - she's proving that while sharing your ~journey~ on social media you not only encourage yourself, but might just give other people a boost too.

 Like this? You might also be interested in:

How To Use Meditation To Make Yourself More Productive

Gemma Styles: How Instagram Got Us Talking About Our Mental Health

Why Do We Get So Obsessed With 'Likes' On Social Media?

Follow Gemma Styles on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

Photo: Matilda Hill-Jenkins 

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