Social media -- you know, the Facebook, Twitter, Instagrams and such -- it's both what's good and horribly bad about the fitness and health industries.
The good stuff seems obvious. If we take the good stuff at face value -- the nice photos, positive vibes and genuine people behind the screens -- it's all very pleasing and pleasant and feel-good.
Simply type in a quick #hashtag search across any of the above-mentioned platforms, and you're on your way to bootylicious, hunky and delicious "fitspiration."
You'll find beautiful sunrises telling you how each day is new and wonderful. You'll be able to emoji high-five friends and complete strangers who hit a personal best in the gym. You'll also find boobs and butts and abs. Lots of it. You'll gaze upon many an Adonis, Venus and Aphrodite in short shorts, sports bras and optional shirt. Oh the abs you'll double-tap.
You can get lost in these fitness and health searches for hours and hours. (Not that I would know...) It's easy to find inspiration, something to motivate you to do better, be better, look better and feel better.
The hardest part of finding all the good stuff is sifting through the bullshit to get there.
Search long enough, and you'll find someone touting a discount code for his or her favorite brand of protein, gear, meal service or other fitness-related product or service. Everyone is a coach. No, really -- everyone is dolling out advice.
What social media has become is a hard pill for me to swallow. And that's when, all too quickly, this "inspiration" turns a cheek and we see the ugly side of social media.
Most people are trying to sell you something or convince you of something, whether it's a method, supplement, service or product. Just like that, so-and-so is influencing thousands and thousands of people with one photo or video upload and a click. Ta da!
Of course, we also want to celebrate each other's accomplishments. That's another hook of social media, isn't it? As a woman, I want to empower fellow female athletes to feel incredible, embrace their inner and outer strengths, and celebrate their beauty and sexiness.
Yet sometime during the past five years or so, we (both men and women) went from genuinely celebrating to secretly being jealous and questioning our own performances, goals and imperfections.
(If you're about to tell me you're able to browse the Internet land of health and fitness and not, for one second, compare yourself to SOMETHING, or not think of yourself at all, then I'd like to know how you do it.)
I'm guilty. I've certainly compared myself to what I see online, even if subconsciously. But I've also taken a step away from the screen and realized that in doing this, it's toxic to my own goals and aspirations. It's also helped me realize even more that I'm pretty damn awesome just the way I am.
I'm finally putting an end to this negative practice in my world, right now. It has taken me some time, but I'm confidently on a path away from this self-scrutiny and criticism, and much happier for it.
What's on the Internet doesn't matter. Real life matters. What matters is you -- your goals, your accomplishments, your actions, the way you see your body. I'm getting back to my roots and remembering something my mom used to tell me all the time when I was little: What others think of you doesn't matter.
Don't get me wrong. Social media is a lot of fun, and I use it all the time for various reasons. I love sharing (I'm a writer, hello). I also enjoy helping others and sharing information. But at the end of the day, I realize who and what I am. I don't depend on likes, comments or shares to justify my existence. I can live beyond the screen.
Don't let anyone else's influence guide your actions and mental process in a negative way, especially the influence of social media.
Just as quickly as it's built up, it can be erased, deleted or hacked even faster. Build your life on real thoughts in your head and concrete goals and actions. Rely on actual humans for support. It's the way we were meant to interact.
Now tweet that.
A version of this piece originally appeared on TheMelissaLeon.com.