Research Finds Male Gym Selfies To Be Barometer For Economic Health

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Science is great. How can you not love it? We got whiz kids developing ways to create self-sustaining scallop farms. We got institutions being given Scrooge McDuck sized research grants to cure devastating diseases. I even saw a study once – of 60,000 people no less – demonstrating that tall dudes got laid more often than short ones. Okay maybe that particular study was dumb, because all they had to do was follow my 5’8” frame around a bar for a night and realize tall guys do better at the meat market, but you get the idea. Science is dope.

And then you got some jabroni across the pond in the UK studying male gym selfies. That’s this guy’s life work. Studying rates of male gym selfies and their correlation to – get this – the strength of the world economy. Ok, sure bro. I’ll humor you. Learn me some science.

A new study out of the University of East Anglia in England has found a surprising connection between the social media activities of gym “bros” and economic health. The research suggests that since 2008, there has been “an empirically observable rise in young men sharing images of their worked-out bodies on social media platforms.” The reason, according to study author and University of East Anglia lecturer Jamie Hakim, is an erosion of “traditional routes to success and power” typically supplied through rewarding employment. “Austerity has eroded young men’s traditional means of value creation, so they have become increasingly reliant on their bodies as a means of feeling valuable to society,” Hakim said in a statement accompanying his report. “The projection of what constitutes a ‘good life’ has become so spectacular even while the means of achieving home ownership, a prestigious career and a high income are radically diminishing.”

This is a really interesting thesis. They’re wrong, but it’s interesting. I like the idea that because dudes are all poor now, instead of buying 300-foot yachts to show that we’re big swinging dicks, we craft bodies like Michelangelo sculpted them to show people we’re still the cock of the walk. But they’re so painfully wrong it’s laughable. How do I know their “science” is wonky? Easy. They correlate increasing number of selfies since 2008 with the economic downturn around the same time.

You know what didn’t exist before 2008? Smartphones. Actually, I did my own little science. The first iPhone launched summer 2007 and they sold six million of them, so literally nobody even had an iPhone in 2008. The big upswing in iPhone was like 2009-10. So riddle me this, Batman: how were swole dudes supposed to upload gym selfies to social media pre-2008? Were guys down at Muscle Beach taking Polaroids, shaking ‘em out like they were in the music video for “Hey Ya,” and then posting them on telephone poles? No. Was your local Mariusz Pudzianowski snapping photos with a digital camera, then uploading them onto a computer to share on Facebook? No. So did the lack of gym selfies pre-2008 signal economic boom? Hell no…there just weren’t any means to actually efficiently taking and sharing gym selfies.

And then there’s this:

Hakim looked specifically at British gym attendance between 2006 and 2013 for men between the ages of 16 and 25, finding that the number of those who attend the gym at least once per week expanded from 14.7 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2013. He also interviewed a handful of young gym-going subjects and scoured the use of fitness-related hashtags on popular social media site Instagram, finding that a “large [proportion] of these are images of men displaying their muscular bodies.” “There is a correlation between the rise of young men fashioning muscular bodies and sharing them online, and the austerity measures experienced by their generation,” Hakim said. “These economic tactics are widening inequality, especially for those born after 1980, with prohibitively high house prices, the loss of secure long-term contracts, tuition fees and other hurdles to economic security.”

You’re telling me that guys are becoming more body conscious in the digital age, AND they’re showing said bodies off? We’re living in a self-centered generation. It’s all about promoting your #brand. Me? I crack sarcastic jokes on the internet. Others are all about that #fitfam #gains life on the ‘Gram. Either way, we’re all yelling “me me me me” and I don’t think it’s a substitution for economic bragging. Plus, you know how expensive a membership to Equinox is? By showing up, or at least holding the swipe card, you’re demonstrating that you can drop spare coin on a gym membership.

So upon extensive peer-reviewed scrutiny (read: me being an asshole from my couch) I’d say that this science does not pass mustard. (Sidebar – it’s for sure “muster” but I’m going to make “pass mustard” a thing. It starts here.)

Personally, I’ve never taken a gym selfie, so I guess you could say business is booming. Although to be fair, my metric for economic prosperity is if I can get my car payments in before Toyota gets all John Chaney on my ass and sends their goons to collect. Also a lack of defined abdominals and moderate common sense also has prevented me from taking gym selfies, but I’ll blame it on economic prosperity in my life.

[via US News]

Image via Shutterstock

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