Is There Really a Fitness Community on the Internet?

This is the voice version of the GUS article, ‘Fitness Communities on the Internet and Social Interactions.

‘ I’ve written and spoken about attributionsmany times.

Attributional thinking is a kind of causalthinking.

Attributions are basically the explanationswe give for things that happen.

This is important in sports and performancetraining.

It’s important in all fitness training, strengthtraining, and bodybuilding.

To what do we attribute our failure? And, to what do we attribute our success? Let’s say you’re a boxer and your opponenthits you below the belt.

You’re either going to think he did it onpurpose or by accident.

Now, let’s say you end up losing the bout.

Your attribution about the low blow is goingto color your reaction to losing.

So, attributions are not just about ourselves, but about others.

To what do we attribute their behavior? Yet, if you are personally “confronted” bysomeone in a boxing match then you have some cues as to whether the low blow was just accidentalor on purpose, right? You’re right there in the ring with them.

The situation at the time of the foul givesyou information.

Was there a lot of tying up and confused punching? Did you have him in the corner?Was he desperate? So, a low-blow might be more likely to beassumed accidental in that situation.

If your opponent, on the other hand, justhauls off and whacks you in the nuts, and then grins while the ref gives him a warning, well, that’s another matter.

You’re going to assume it was intentional! Boxers are part of a community of boxers, and part of an extended community of people involved in boxing.

However, today, like most of us, they’re alsopart of a personal social community and an internet social community.

But, on the internet, we lack the situationaland other feedback we get in personal interactions.

When someone hits your with a “low blow” onthe internet – for example, they make a sarcastic remark, – you don’t have the normal socialcues.

Maybe the person thinks they are being likeDon Rickles, but with Rickles, it’s not just what he says, but how he says it.

That’s often lost in textual communication.

Social information processing theory differentiatesbetween face-to-face communication, or FTF.

and computer-mediated communication, or CMC.

In the book, Psychology and the Internet:Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications, author Jayne Gackenback discussesthis, although not everyone agrees on the nature or severity of the problem: The differencesbetween us normally inhibit to some extent the formation of personal relationships.

She says that in text-based environments, the differences between people are hidden.

So this promotes a sense of group membershipthat is dependent solely on the limited perceptions of the individual available through CMC.

When individual differences are less conspicuous, group membership becomes more prominent.

See, in text-only mediums, your control overthe impressions people form about you is enhanced You have more command over the timing andcontent of your self-disclosures.

Online, we judge each another on perceivedgroup similarity or differences.

We engage in an over-attribution process andassume things about others based on their own unconscious projections.

We just don’t realize that a large part ofour attributions regarding others is based on our own assumptions and misattributions.

Gackenback goes on to say something that weall realize: People are just way less inhibited on the internet.

All of us in the fitness industry that participatein the internet, are familiar with that plague called disagreement.

So, when we’re having an online discussion, it’s important to remember, even on Facebook or any other social media platform, that we’repart of a certain social group.

And, this will influence our behavior.

And, when someone disagrees with us And, whensomeone disagrees with us, what we see as their “group” will, of course, influence ourresponse.

If you are part of the “calories don’t count”crowd, I might have some preconceptions about you.

They might be wrong but they’re hard to shake.

Beyond that, if you only ever debate or discusson the internet, youmay not realize something, and this might kind of blow your mind.

There are different connotations of the statement, “I disagree with what you said.

” So, suppose you and I are discussing somethingin person, and we’re on friendly and good terms.

Maybe we’re having a beer.

We’re generally relaxed.

But, we get into some heavy stuff, and youmake a statement, and I say to you “I disagree with that.

” But, I’m looking at you in a certain way andnodding my head, and, because of the way I’m acting, you take my disagreement more as ininvitation to elaborate on your views.

I’m sort of inviting you to convince me.

I am displaying a certain kind of openness.

Now, this same conversation happens on theinternet and you do not have those social cues.

It is really up to your mood, and your attributionsabout me at the time, how you are going to react to my saying “I disagree with what yousaid.

” There are reduced cues.

What is ironic is that both sides of the debate, those who find value in CMC and those against it, both point to these reduced cues: Oneside says relationships are artificial and trust is fleeting due to those reduced cues.

The other side says CMC is good because we’reliberated from those cues! I doubt that is an all good or an all badthing, and I am sure the proponent and opponents would agree.

Regardless, when processing any type of information, and as my friend Jamie Hale is fond of pointing out, we tend to be cognitive misers.

We take shortcuts and use heuristics insteadof painstakingly going through everything with a fine-tooth comb.

It is just easier for me to “assume” you meana certain thing, lacking a smile or a frown, crossed arms, or a well-timed slap upsidethe head, than to go through a drawn-out give and take to glean your true meaning.

I use attributions to do that.

Of course, I make attributions in person aswell and people make them about me.

Yet, in person, false attributions, no matterhow self-serving have a tougher time surviving, at least in my experience.

And, really want to stress that it’s importantto realize that attributions do tend to be self-serving.

Even people on the internet with whom I havea more personal relationship continue to attribute attitudes to me I don’t actually possess.

Much of this has to do with our need to placeour friends in certain social groups we see as favorable and perhaps even virtuous.

That brings me to why I used the term “fitnesscommunity” in the title of the article that accompanies this talk.

I put a question mark in the title.

We often see ourselves as part of an onlinefitness community, or a strength training community, or an exercise community, but, there is no distinct community.

There are, instead, hundreds of complex socialgroupings, with even more complex overlaps and interactions.

There are, of course, many more articles yourcould read about the social aspects of the internet that are much more informed, andinformative than this one, but I think it’s important, when we conduct more and more ofour social lives on the internet, including professionally, that we recognize the advantagesand the limitations.


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