Social media is an important part of our lives in the 21st century. Nearly every activity we do has become tied to it in some way, including exercise. For example, many of us use socially-networked apps to log workouts at the fitness center, regularly post our fitness tracker stats to Facebook, or take pictures of ourselves after a sweaty workout for the benefit of Instagram.

Socially media can be good for your exercise habits, but it also has some potential dangers, as well. Consider the following examples and ask yourself what role social media plays in your fitness habits.

The benefits of social media: greater fitness knowledge, stronger community

Social media has given us amazing access to information about workout programs and techniques, fitness tips, diets, nutrition, and health products. This means that, with just a fitness gym membership, you can build a better you without the additional expense of a personal trainer, boutique fitness classes, or a dietician.

Secondly, having a network of like-minded people with similar goals to connect with for encouragement, motivation, and accountability is often the key to sticking with our resolve to change our lifestyle and get in better shape. This goes for both gym buddies and people you meet through fitness apps or social media.

The downsides of social media: misinformation and disconnection from reality

As we mentioned, the Internet’s social network provides a wealth of fitness information – but that information isn’t always accurate, and can sometimes be downright dangerous to your health. Think about numerous fad diets and workout strategies that are all the rage one day, but revealed to be scams or health risks the next. So, while it’s fine to enjoy the free information social media provides, it’s also important to weigh the reputation of your sources and test everything against sound fitness advice.

Social media can also distort reality and lead people to compare themselves with a false idea of others’ lifestyles and fitness level. It’s human nature to share only what we want others to see, so keep this in mind before comparing your own failures and successes with someone’s most flattering pictures and workout stats. In most cases, what you see is not their reality, either.

The best thing you can do for your fitness is to focus on yourself: your goals, your daily workouts, and your personal milestones. Stop worrying about measuring up to someone else’s social media posts and focus on becoming the best version of yourself – whether others are impressed, or not.

As we’ve seen, social media can be a library of helpful information and a catalyst for community and motivation, but it can also be the medium of bad data and false expectations. Enjoy the benefits of social media without falling for its traps. It’s fun to share the journey to greater health and fitness with others, but remember that the journey you’re on is as unique as you.