Social Media Fire: Gyms and Butt Pics

Coach Ninja


United States

Olympic Weightlifting, Strength Training, Strength and Conditioning, Powerlifting


Social Media Fire: Gyms and Butt Pics - Fitness, crossfit, social media, psychology, psychosocial, Trending, commercial gyms, gym etiquette, box gym


The owner of Blue Ridge Crossfit, in North Carolina, recently saw an exodus of members from his gym because he posted a video of his female member’s butts on the gym’s Facebook page. To add insult to injury, he captioned the Instagram Story of the same video with “Dayum” and #humpday. The owner, Tom Tomlo, didn’t seem to think that he had overstepped any bounds. In fact, when he was called out for his post on social media, his response was profane. The story is one that raises a number of questions: did Tomlo overstep the line, was his profane response warranted, was the initial criticism of his post warranted? We’ll let you be the judge of this particular story. USA Today covers the whole drama under the heading: CrossFit owner posts women’s butts online; outrage erupts.



There are three things that stand out about this situation that makes it symptomatic of a bigger problem:


  1. Tomlo may lose his gym because of his reaction to criticism online. He didn’t like being called out and he has only himself to blame for the way he handled the comments. He is probably not the first, or the last person, who loses his cool online when common sense dictates a measured approach.
  2. This is probably not an isolated incident. In fact, you can be sure that right now there are pictures being posted by gym owners of their members that may not be covered by photo release forms or be very flattering to members, if not downright insulting. Frankly, there’s not much anyone can do to stop the deluge of social media posts but that doesn’t mean there are not reasons to be concerned about what gets posted online that uses you.
  3. What took so long for this to become an issue? Are people deathly afraid of social media acceptance being taken away? Maybe we are living in a Black Mirror episode. That’s not a good thing.


The Selfie in a Gym Sucks Everyone In

For some reason that is unknown, lots of people feel the need to video or photograph their every activity in the gym and to post it online. That would be great if the people in question were just doing a selfie, but they usually drag in everyone else in the background. Every day, anyone and everyone seems to be a potential extra in someone else’s social media posts. Is that good or bad? Well, it has to depend on the circumstance. You have a right not to like or want to be filmed or photographed although, frankly, there’s not much you can do about it.


You hear the arguments for these selfie records of lifts or workouts: they help you check your form or they help you record a PR or some moment in time when you were doing something that you feel needed to be treasured. The truth of the matter is that you will probably be hard-pressed to find anyone who goes back into their social media timeline and tracks their history of posts. The videos and images come and go. Chris Holder touches on some key topic points by talking about mirror neurons and the scourge of social media coaching.


The good news is that very, very few people see these selfies. With the exception of a handful of social media stars, most people are barely acknowledged by anything but a handful of followers. In many cases, your followers are probably just liking or endorsing a post out of a sense of duty more than any general interest. Still, each to his or her own. The real issue here is the way the background or those around the selfie taker are sucked into the exhibitionism.




The Social Media Treadmill Hurst Everyone

So, selfies are one thing but there's also the climate of fitness and social media. What is more germane to the Blue Ridge CrossFit story is the pressure on business owners to post on social media. Social media companies like Facebook want you to keep posting and rely on you to be on a treadmill that they control. You feed Facebook. You don’t feed yourself by posting.


Sure, gym owners probably feel like it is good marketing. It can foster some sense of community if done right. It can be informative. It’s not necessarily bad to post on social. However, to get your timeline to resonate and be interesting requires some level of creativity. You get sucked into thinking about how many likes or followers you have. It’s almost like you have to crave the attention and the more you crave it, the more pressure there is on you to post and to hit a home run with your post.


Maybe that is what Tom Tomlo thought. Maybe he was tone deaf and didn’t think butt pics of female members were bad if he was praising the aforementioned butts. Maybe he just wanted to get some more likes and butt pics will do it every time. Who knows and who cares.


The real concern here is the expectation and rights of the gym goer or user. Expectations of privacy, even if they are not legally enforceable, should outweigh any need to dance like a monkey on social media.


You’re Value is Not Determined by Facebook

Social media companies love fitness and gyms and healthy, young bodies. Yup, healthy young bodies. They want the superficial and the instant gratification. Fitness is not political or religious and therefore less likely to create controversy. It’s just beautiful people doing fantastic things. But, it is not real life. In real life, someone may have just gone to a gym and may be very self-conscious of their own selves. They may not like to be seen flopped on the floor after a missed lift because someone just hit their PR in front of them and videotaped the whole thing. There are great coaches who should never be on camera. Not because of how they look or speak but because not everyone is good in front of the camera. If it were otherwise, we’d all have a movie deal.


The Blue Ridge CrossFit fiasco is the tip of the iceberg. You can feel some sympathy because there is an undeniable pressure to be visible and active and popular on social media. For individuals and businesses alike. On the other hand, that pressure creates unrealistic expectations, misunderstandings and infringes on so many other issues of privacy that are only now beginning to be understood.


Social media is really not that old. It hasn’t been around for that long. We are only beginning to understand its impact on us as a society and our psychological well-being. It’s time to do an audit of our social media presence and start thinking about the bigger picture: what’s the value of giving up small pieces of ourselves and laying them out there for everyone to see? That’s going to be a social media choice that you make. What we must have, though, is greater respect for individual privacy.

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