How to Deal With Negative Comments on Workout Posts

It’s never nice to criticize someone’s body in their social media posts or tell them that they’re doing an exercise wrong (even if you really think you’re right). For men, such negative comments are annoying from time to time. For many women, they are constant. So let’s talk about what you can do with them.

How to recognize an asshole’s comment

Before we move on to practical advice, I would like to take a minute to describe the problem area. A wise comment is a comment that is meant to make you feel terrible, or may have an unclear intent, but definitely makes you feel terrible. These could be comments about how ugly you are or that you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing. It can be subtle resentment, outright insult, or hate speech. Basically, you will understand it when you see it.

I’m sure a bunch of guys are rushing to the comments right now to say that I care about nothing and that a few kinky answers don’t really matter, and anyone who is worried should get thicker skin. Yes, it would be nice if it was a small problem, easily solvable. But this is not the case.

Negative comments and sloppy compliments abound on the Internet. If you haven’t seen them, it could be because you keep your belongings visible to only a few trusted friends – the right choice. Or it could be because what you post doesn’t make people angry. If you are, for example, a woman lifting heavy weights or a fat person exercising, the very fact of your existence will drive people crazy. They may respond with outright insults or disguise their disdain as worries that you might be hurt or that you will never find a partner.

And these are not just sexist comments: there is a ton of shit that is racist, fat-phobic, transphobic, etc. In this article, I’m going to focus on sexist ideas, but let’s be clear: everyone deserves to use their body the way they want for sports or exercise. Everyone deserves to share with their chosen audience as much as they want. And nobody deserves poisonous rubbish in their answers. Don’t like what you see? Keep scrolling.

Don’t think they know what they’re talking about

Overt insults are easy to spot, but often the negative comes in the form of comments about what you are actually doing. They will say the bench press is a scam. Or you’re squatting wrong.

If someone gives you unwanted advice , don’t listen to them. You don’t even need to argue – but more on that in a minute. First, try to distinguish conscientious, truly helpful advice from the bullshit that masquerades as it. (Generally: Conscientious, really helpful advice most likely comes from someone you really asked for.)

Especially if you are new to training and if you have accepted the premise that good form is important, you may be tempted to see perhaps the truth in a critical comment. If someone tells you that you are lifting the wrong way, you might automatically think, “Oh shit, I better figure out how to fix this!”

Look, this even happens to me. I’ll post a deadlift and some anxious troll will say something about my rounding of my back, and I’ll revisit my video trying to figure out what they’re seeing. I know I was holding on tight , I tell myself, but did they see something that I didn’t see ?

This is a natural reaction, but try to catch yourself doing it. If a comment gets on your nerves, ask yourself two questions:

  1. I would like to find this person for his experience? If you didn’t ask Random No Public Pictures Bro for his advice, why would you follow that advice when it’s not on demand?
  2. Do I really want to validate the form? Most of us already know what we are working on. My coach has been helping me improve my snatch for over a year now, giving me one signal to work, then another, then another. It’s a process and it works. Even if you want to get form validation from people on the Internet, please do it thoughtfully .

Even if you don’t have a coach, you still have the right to take responsibility for your training and decide what you work on and who you want advice from. If you’re really intimidated by a troll’s comment, don’t forget that you can send the video to your coach or trusted friend to ask, “Hey, am I bending over here?”

But remember, not all advice is good. In fact, some of the loudest guys have the worst advice. I can never overcome the ease with which random gym mates will tell an elite powerlifter that she is not doing a “real” bench press if her back is arched, or that the sumo deadlift is a “scam.” Sorry dudes, both of these things are allowed by the rules, and when a competitor lifts up in a way that is most beneficial to their body, it would be foolish not to. You get points based on how much weight you put on, not whether some dude with a blurry avatar thinks your lift looked good.

To be honest, a lot of these comments come from jealousy. Angry guys (and they’re not always guys, but honestly: usually guys) will see a respectable feat of strength from someone who doesn’t look like a “real” lifter to them, and instead of questioning their own biases, they: Me start looking for ways to feel better. Telling you that you are doing it wrong is just their way of confusing you and making you feel good. You don’t need to play along.

No need to argue

Okay, so you got bullshit and you know it’s bullshit. While it might be tempting to explain to this troll why he is wrong, this is not your only option.

Do you enjoy arguing with them? Will it be worth it? What is the return? Sometimes, if an obnoxious comment is on a post that doesn’t belong to you, replying to it will send a message to outside observers that inappropriate comments will be met with a response. It’s a small thing, but it helps. (Beware, depending on the context, people can pounce on you . The world is unfair.)

So let’s talk about some of the other options.

Delete, complain, block

If you have an offensive or useless comment, such as a comment on an Instagram post you posted, consider simply deleting it.

The troll wants attention, either from others or from you, making you angry. Removing the comment deprives them of that satisfaction. It also maintains your page as an asshole free zone, which you might like.

On a forum like Twitter, you cannot delete other people’s tweets, but you can hide their replies. You can also block them, making it harder for your followers to see what they are saying and for others to see you.

I don’t like to muffle or hide people when they are assholes. Ducking and hiding are for times when you’re happy that something exists, you just don’t want to see it. But if someone is acting like an asshole on my territory, I want him to leave, or at least disconnect from me. Delete. Block.

If it is about hate speech or anything where you think the platform’s messaging system will be on your side, please report it.

And if there is a comment thread where replies keep rolling but you choose to contribute, look for an option (like “unsubscribe from replies” on Facebook) that will at least stop notifying you about them.

Fry them

Sometimes I get angry with the troll, and then I get angry with myself for being angry. Why should this person live without rent in my head? In this case, catharsis can help.

You don’t need to involve the terrible person in this at all. Just take a screenshot and then attach that screenshot to the most supportive group text so you and your friends can toast that person in private. Social support is huge as a survival strategy. You feel less alone and it can help you regain your confidence.

On Instagram, you can always tag @ you.look.like.a.man for sexist comments. The strong woman Jessica Fiten, who runs the account, posts them and sometimes adds comments. I avoided spying on the account when I first found out about it because it might be full of toxic materials. But the more I interact with it, the more I appreciate that there is a community of strong women who shout their nonsense to people. Fiten believes that about 90% of the “hateful and unnecessary comments” she draws attention to come from men; she wrote a blog post here about what she learned in a year and a half working on this page.

What if I know this person?

From time to time, people leave comments that don’t really realize they are harmful. Sometimes unwanted comments fall into this category when validating a form. Sometimes overly sexual compliments also come from ignorance.

If you know the person and want to save the friendship – this is a completely optional step – consider pointing out what they are doing and why it is harmful.

Someone once said that my squat depth was “erotic”. Roughly, but from the context, I could tell that it should have been a real compliment. That doesn’t mean that everything is okay at all , but otherwise he seemed mostly a good person and we had mutual friends. I have not blocked it. But the second time he did it, I asked him to ask if he realized he looked super creepy. He immediately apologized, saying that he hadn’t thought of it that way and never did it again.

To be completely, absolutely clear, you don’t owe anyone a second chance. This is a gift you can give if you are feeling generous. Otherwise, there is a good enough set of tools for uninstall, block, report, ignore, and bake.

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