Has being chosen to run 5k or down a pint in an Instagram challenge become the new proof of popularity?
I’m going to share a little secret with you: I hate running. In fact, I’m not really big on exercise in any form. I think it’s the whole ‘agonising pain mixed with tight clothing and excessive sweating thing’ that puts me off. (I can imagine Stylist’s fitness editor shaking her head at me as she reads this, for which I can only apologise.)
So, why do I care so much that I wasn’t nominated for the 5k challenge? If it’s managed to pass you by, the “run five, donate five and tag five” challenge was born unto Instagram stories and encourages people to show themselves running or walking five kilometres, donating a fiver to the NHS and then tagging five more Instagram users to do it all over again.
And hey – it’s a lovely sentiment. It makes me feel all fuzzy inside that, in times like this, people are coming together to raise money for charity and encouraging each other. We might not be able to make physical plans with a pal to have a real life chinwag on a Sunday afternoon, but by tagging them in a challenge it galvanises them to get out the house, while giving a cheeky little shout out to say ‘I’m thinking of you’.
This isn’t exclusive to the run five challenge. In fact, social media has been run amuck with similar initiatives as weeks of self-isolation have dragged on. And with the announcement that lockdown will continue for another three weeks, I can only imagine we’ll see some more spring up in response.
From downing a pint to sharing a picture of yourself at 20 years old, there’s probably over a dozen of these challenges I can think of. They’re all fun and games – literally – until you aren’t nominated yourself. It appears even when socialising is off the cards, it’s possible to get FOMO.
Again – I don’t even like running, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that I haven’t been asked to give it a go. I’ll admit, I’ve even imagined what my post would look like if the time eventually comes – panicking unnecessarily that I’ll be a bad sport if I don’t photograph my red, clammy face. It is in equal parts hilarious and sad to me that I’m having this inner battle.
But the good news is (well, for me anyway), I’m not the only one. Helen Bownass Stylist’s entertainment director has also felt her pride somewhat wounded by not being ‘part of the gang’.
“It all feels a bit PE class at school, doesn’t it? Right now, my sense of identity is heightened because I’m disconnected from the people and things that usually make me feel like a functioning member of society. So, when it feels like everyone else is taking part in something that you haven’t been invited into it, it can make you feel left out,” she says.
“I mean… I can run? It might not be very well, or very fast, but – that’s not the point! I can still do this. Even if I trot the bloody thing, I can do it – so, why don’t you think I can?! And – it’s the NHS, I love the NHS! Don’t you think I would want to give five pounds? Of course I would – I’m not so unfeeling and inhuman, you know?!”
While other members of the team have noticed their friends feeling sensitive, but they also encourage us to remember that it’s nothing to do with popularity.
Chloe Gray, Stylist’s fitness writer (and therefore, as you can imagine, a prime candidate for this) says: “When I uploaded my handstand challenge I nominated the people who I thought might actually do it.”
“I did feel bad when a friend half-joking, half-annoyed asked why I hadn’t nominated her. It sounds so ridiculous, but I get why she felt left out, because as I’ve watched friends nominate others I’ve been wondering why they didn’t pick me, too,” she says.
“But it’s nothing to do with the person. I think it’s down to the activity and which friends would enjoy doing it more.”
It’s interesting to see how the way we perceive our social contact with our friends continues to adapt to this new chapter in our lives. I didn’t expect to get FOMO when none of my friends are even able to see each other, but in these uncertain times I think it’s understandable to let little things throw you off balance.
Now, who wants to be nominated for the eat chocolate and watch Netflex challenge?