Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the loads of social media sites, we are bombarded with images and messages that aim to influence us on a daily basis. From the selfies of beautiful women, to pictures of daily meal selections, and video posts showing off the latest personal best bench press, it is easy to fall into the comparison trap. At some point or the other, we have all done it and even I am guilty of it. While unrealistic ideals and stereotypes exist in the fitness industry, we must constantly remind ourselves that we are not them. They are real. But so am I. I am unique and I am completely my own. While it is easy to point out some of the negative ways that social media can suck us into a realm of negativity, there are some benefits of the trend that can positively influence our health and fitness as well.

Social media is a constant stream of information from individuals with like-minded ideas. We can get access to trainer tips, exercises, and recipes from professionals in the industry as they post them on their timelines. Updates and motivational posts from our peers can inspire us to work harder than we have before. Our network of those that we follow allows us to connect with people who are sharing the same experiences as we are and are often willing to help. These individuals give us the courage to find a common ground and keep us motivated to participate. Motivation to workout, train hard, and eat well is often half the battle in the first place.

Along with the valuable network of people we can access through social media, it isn’t uncommon to be invited to races, bootcamps, fitness classes, and educational seminars by staying up to date on the pages we follow. While most of this information is great and can be valuable in our fitness journey, there is also a ton of misinformation that is out there. Not everyone who is on Instagram or Facebook is an educated coach or nutrition specialist, though they are posting about the latest fat burning craze or calorie slashing diet. In fact, some of these methods are actually dangerous and can cause more harm than good, so be very careful about the information that you absorb. The number of followers that an individual has does not indicate or measure the education or experience of an individual and make their methods valid. Make sure that you are doing what is right and best for you by finding a trusted coach or trainer that is certified to give you fitness advice that is individualized to suit your needs.

One of the biggest dangers of social media is the way it enables us to negatively compare ourselves to others. Let’s face it; we never compare down. Most often, we believe that we are not good enough to live the life that we see posted by others on their pages. Scroll down Instagram and count how many pictures of abs appear on your feed. Its easy to get caught up thinking that we will never be as beautiful as the model in the picture. We will never be that “skinny” or it will take forever to reach our weight loss goal. Make sure that you are following individuals and pages that positively impact you and have an inspiring story to tell, regardless of what they look like or if they have abs.

While technology incorporates a “get it now” mentality, we must constantly remind ourselves of the hard work and dedication that must be needed in order to achieve our biggest dreams and desires. Success and lasting happiness are only achieved by finding a plan that best suits our lifestyles. While many answers are made available through social media, we have to pay attention and take a deep look into the truth behind everything. While others post motivational, harmless, harmful, ignorant, or truthful messages, I encourage you to have a sense of your own values and stay in tune with those regardless of what you come across in the world of social media.

* Stephanie Szpila is a full-time personal trainer at Jada Blitz Training