In January 2022, Jessica Fernandez, a content creator, shared a video on Twitch of her weightlifting at a gym while a man in the background looked at her. She considered the man creepy, and the video went viral, leading to a national discussion about narcissism and toxic gym culture in the social media era.
Such workout spaces are now film sets for aspiring influencers, and people in the backgrounds of such clips have sometimes been unwittingly thrust into the spotlight. Bodybuilder Joey Swoll, the “CEO of Gym Positivity,” had enough and decided to stand up to this culture, becoming an arbiter of etiquette in the workout world.
Joey Swoll Takes a Stand Against Toxic Gym Culture
Swoll is known for making videos calling out bad behavior while also cheering on people who have long been underserved by the fitness industry. He addresses bad behavior and how to correct it while reminding people to be empathetic and kind to one another. He calls himself the “anti-influencer,” but he has a massive footprint on the internet, with over 6.6 million followers on TikTok, more than a half million on Twitter, and 2.3 million on Instagram.
Swoll became an advocate for gym culture when he saw an increase in negative content from sweaty spaces. In his videos, he addresses both sexes when they ridicule strangers, either for doing an exercise incorrectly or simply for being in someone’s camera’s eyeline. He believes that his message is having a real effect on gym culture and social media, which he hopes will lead to less shaming videos and more positive content.
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Joey Swoll’s Ethos: Do Better and Be Kind
While many praised Swoll for his perspective, he soon became the object of numerous profiles labeling him “misogynistic” for underplaying the issue of women being harassed at the gym. However, a quick perusal of his videos shows that he calls out both sexes when they ridicule strangers, for doing an exercise incorrectly, or because they make the innocent mistake of being in someone’s camera’s eyeline. Swoll believes that poor behavior, not gender, catches his eye, and the accusations against him are without merit.
Swoll believes that he is not doing anything revolutionary, just providing a refresher in common wisdom. He is telling people something they already know: to treat others like they want to be treated. He encourages his followers to show empathy, compassion, and kindness, which has led to apologies from some people he called out and even friendships with them.
The Impact of Joey Swoll’s Message
Joey Swoll’s message has had a significant impact on the fitness industry, leading to a change in how people think about gym culture and social media. Swoll is regularly tagged by followers, alerting him to questionable posts, but before he weighs in with his own commentary, he waits to see if the creator realizes their mistake and takes it down or apologizes. Sometimes, that happens after commenters gently point out that a post was mean spirited.
Swoll’s videos have led to apologies and even friendships with people he called out, including a New York trainer who once ridiculed an older lady for toting her coat around at the gym instead of leaving it in the locker room. Swoll believes that everyone makes mistakes, and he encourages people to do better and be kind.