We’ve written about the connection between sappy relationship posts on Facebook and low self-esteem—but what about the psychology behind fitness posts? We’re all familiar with the post-gym mirror selfie/humblebrag or the before-and-after body shot comparisons—and let’s not forget the close-knit #fitfam community. But what compels some people, and not others, to share their fitness goals with the world?
Such was the question on Brunel University researchers’ minds when the London-based team gathered Facebook data from 555 people who had previously completed online surveys. They measured the “Big Five” personality traits: extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, in addition to self-esteem and narcissism. They then analyzed what those users chose to post about on Facebook, drawing correlations between certain personality traits and topic areas.
The results aren’t exactly flattering: People who post about diets, exercise, and other accomplishments are typically narcissists, motivated by “their need for attention and validation from the Facebook community,” according to the study. The team also found that these achievement-focused status updates typically receive a lot of likes and comments, serving as validation for the users’ incessant boasting.
“Although our results suggest that narcissists’ bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays,” writes Brunel University psychology lecturer Dr. Tara Marshall. “Greater awareness of how one’s status updates might be perceived by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than they entertain.”
Do you post about fitness on social media? Share your experience below and test out the MyFitnessPal app as a potential alternative.