Has Social Media Ruined Bodybuilding?
Q: Have platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube popularized bodybuilding or ruined it?
A: The social media revolution has transformed the world, for both better and worse. People of different countries, cultures and languages are more interconnected than ever before. For those with a passion for bodybuilding, social media allows for the exchange of information and communication of ideas to a level unimagined just a few decades ago. Fans of the sport can follow the daily routines of their favorite IFBB pros and NPC elites without leaving their homes, and get competition results instantaneously. They can watch live streaming Olympia and Arnold contest video from hundreds of different cellphone angles throughout the venue. Everyone with a social media platform and a smartphone becomes a journalist, uploading pictures, live video, and offering individual commentary on contests, events, diet and training to a worldwide bodybuilding community.
Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have allowed aspiring amateurs, who likely would never have earned a pro card, to “brand” themselves, attract followers, and ultimately score sponsorships from apparel and supplement companies. There are opportunities for success that have never existed before. The rise to fame can be meteoric. Social media platforms make celebrity seem attainable for everyone.
Gyms are also different today due to social media. Smartphones have become an indispensable piece of the daily training arsenal. Training partners spend less time spotting and more time filming. Hours are dedicated in the quest for the “perfect gym selfie.” I recently watched a gym newbie waste two machines and 10 minutes carefully positioning her phone to film herself doing unimpressive lat pulldowns from behind. I’m sure it’s uploaded somewhere on YouTube.
IFBB pros generally see social media as a mixed bag. In “Generation Iron 2,” director Vlad Yudin’s documentary sequel, Shawn Ray observes, “You don’t have to be a hall of fame bodybuilder to have a million followers these days.” Shawn’s spot on – outrageous antics or other marketing techniques can catapult mediocre physiques to Instagram celebrity status. “Some guy can have nice abs and he posts pictures of them,” IFBB great Kevin Levrone told Team MD. “He might have no training or nutritional certifications or any real knowledge, he’s never competed, yet he can have 200-400,000 followers and advertise he’s available for ‘meal plans’ and coaching services.”
I spent some time talking to a newly minted IFBB pro on the expo floor of the recent Olympia Expo. He’s a guy I’ve known for many years, a man who paid his dues in the amateur ranks, looks great, and has a wealth of knowledge. However, he had a short line of fans waiting to snap a picture with him, while across the aisle there was a line of 100 people waiting to speak to a young man who could not have had more than a 16-inch biceps. He had never competed in a show, nor would he have done well in one. He was a fitness “YouTuber” who had achieved celebrity simply by posting pictures and video of the ordinary things he did every day. Yet there he was, with a sweet sponsorship deal and a line of fans. Both the IFBB pro and I shook our heads.
In the end, social media is what you make of it. Its value lies in what you post and in what you look at. There’s good information out there. There’s inspiration. But an endless parade of identical bathroom mirror “progress” selfies gets pretty tiring to look at. For years, I’ve used my Facebook and Twitter accounts at www.facebook.com/rickcollinsonline and www.twitter.com/rickcollinsesq to spread useful information and educate both the legal community and the bodybuilding community. I post breaking research findings on anabolic steroids and sports nutrition, legal developments such as new laws or international anti-steroid operations, sports doping scandal announcements, as well as various odds and ends I find interesting, surprising or funny. I recently caved in and launched an Instagram account, also @RickCollinsEsq. I’ve even uploaded a (very) few videos of my own workouts, so feel free to check me out online.
Reprinted from Rick’s monthly column in Muscular Development magazine. [© Rick Collins, 2019. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice.]