Research shows that commoditization destroys physical activity

Key points

  • Physically active exercise has gained attention, partly because of social media. But some individuals and brands have joined this movement for personal or company benefit.
  • A recent study found that consumers recognize that this dishonest behavior not only harms individuals or companies, but may also harm the sport itself.

Brands and influencers who use pro-social information on social media solely for personal or corporate benefit may think they are quickly attracting consumers, but a new study shows that these strategies may actually be counterproductive.

The research was published in Disseminate monographs, Assessed a group of social media users’ perceptions of pro-social comments on Instagram when combined with consumerism or self-promotion-especially active exercise around the body.

When it comes to countless companies and content creators claiming to embrace the movement (for example, using the hashtag #BoPo) to sell or gain followers, the results of the study show that consumers often see through dishonesty. This will damage not only the original poster, but also the movement.

“If content creators consistently combine pro-social information with product placement, it may weaken the effectiveness of the campaign,” said lead study author Kyla Brathwaite. “This may apply to any social movement. People may not think that physical active movement is so rich and powerful because it goes hand in hand with consumerism.”

This survey

For this study, the researchers recruited 851 female participants between the ages of 18-89. Each participant received 10 Instagram posts that included information that was good for the body, with hashtags such as #bopo and #allbodiesaregoodbodies.

There are self-promotion posts that encourage viewers to like, comment, or visit the YouTube channel, as well as corporate-sponsored posts that promote fitness programs, facial products designed to hide defects, or clothing lines that are not mentioned. Exterior.

Kyla Brathwaite, principal researcher

Companies always try to make themselves look more selfless. It may be sincere, or it may not be. It is up to the consumer to decide.

— Principal Researcher Kyla Brathwaite

After viewing these posts, participants were invited to fill out a questionnaire. Their responses indicated that the more promotional clues the participants identified in the positive information about their bodies, the more likely they were to believe that the poster’s support for the campaign was dishonest.

Many brands have committed this-posting physically positive content or using adjacent hashtags next to their posts to attract customers, when in fact they do not align with sports values. Airbrush models in advertisements, ignoring bodies that provide inclusive sizes, or failing to portray various shapes, races, and abilities are some red flags that indicate that the company’s values ​​may be inconsistent with the message it conveys.

Looking at the image attached to the post, if the participant is sure that the image depicted contains the size, they are more likely to believe that the information is morally appropriate and true.

“The company always tries to be more selfless,” Brathwaite said. “It may or may not be sincere. It is up to the consumer to decide.”

Dr. Robyn Pashby, a psychologist who specializes in weight and body-related issues, pointed out that continuous exposure to commercialization may not only distort and dilute the original information of exercise, but may actually change the way our brains work.

“While this research shows that people are well aware of the sales strategies used in IG posts, the sheer volume, frequency, and intensity of such advertisements will affect the thinking of social media users, whether they are aware of it or not,” Pashby said. “The human brain changes with repetition.”

Solve the problem

Pashby said that for some people, physical activity is a gift after enduring decades of shame and blame. Social media makes it easier for people to get this gift, just like in countless other communities, sports, and schools of thought.

“For better or worse, social media is highly relevant in almost all social justice movements,” Pashby said. “In physical activity, there are different opinions on how to interpret this concept. Social media provides an international discussion platform. Fortunately, having such a platform provides a way of support that did not exist before the social media world, and another On the one hand, the risk of more groups of “us and them” is increasing-is your body active?”

Since social media will not disappear anytime soon, it is important for individuals and companies to understand how to promote a healthy environment online.

Robin Pashby, PhD

By carefully choosing the objects and content we focus on, and remembering the golden rule: the content posted is not always or even often a reflection of real life, and we can all benefit and protect ourselves by restricting our general social media use.

— Robin Pashby, PhD

Brathwaite believes that her research results can help companies better understand the importance and necessity of authenticity, because social media users can see through empty information.

“If content creators and companies really want to promote physical positivity for their brands, they need to be strategic about the amount and type of brand physical positivity content they put on the page,” she said. “If they hit people’s minds with physically positive content, but consumers can see that their brand may be inconsistent with the perceived value of sports, it may hurt them.”

Personal literacy is also important when it comes to social media messaging and advertising. Pashby urges everyone, young and old, to take the time to be educated in social media navigation like teaching teenagers to drive.

“Even just telling people that the ideal weight-loss image will reduce our emotional and physical image is useful,” she said. “By carefully choosing the objects and content we follow, and remembering the golden rule: the content posted does not always or even often reflect real life, and we can all benefit and protect ourselves by restricting our overall use of social media.”

What this means to you

Determining the true intentions of a brand or influencer can be difficult. If it is important for the products and people in your life to be consistent with your values, please conduct research to ensure that they are consistent with their words and deeds.


Research shows that commoditization destroys physical activity
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