I was in the metro. A man with neanderthal facial features who appeared to be a recovering bulking victim was next to me. His face was buried in a 7-inch smartphone. I don’t know what he was reading, but it appeared to be terribly important because the guy was in a deep trance. In front of me, there was a middle-aged man. His smartphone’s CPU was also running hot. I turned my head North-East and guess what I saw? Some kid playing on his pocket computer.
After a few stops, a girl wearing a skirt and fatal red blouse got on the train. This is when the amazing happened. Everybody, including the neanderthal, unburrowed and started staring. A few moments later, everybody reconnected and resumed browsing and chatting.
I asked myself what would the modern life be without powerful phones in people’s pockets. This inquiry reminded me of the popular belief that bodybuilding and the gym culture, in general, were more user-friendly and less narcissistic before the social media and smartphone revolution. It may surprise you, but I don’t think this is true.
A lot of things have changed since the Golden Era. There are new machines, new training programs, new supplements, new gym clothes and new ways to communicate with your fans. The truth, however, is that the crux is still the same.
Many people tend to overrate the past due to nostalgia, myths and fairy tales. The retro photos and the breathtaking stories make the bygone years feel otherworldly. Sorry, but I don’t buy that. I think that it’s all one big lie, and I am tired of hipsters. “Retro” is not a synonym for “better”. Remember that before buying a typewriter.
The most significant impact over the last few decades was caused by personal computers and the Internet. New technology can reduce the pain, but the heart of the machine is still the same. The external has changed, but the inner system operates the same way. The banks still lend money with interest, don’t they?
Why would the world of bodybuilding be any different without smartphones and social media? Smartphones can upgrade, but people can’t. That’s why so many philosophical ideas have remained true over the course of centuries. The mind, just like the body, still works the same way. Nothing has changed except the clothes.
If sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook were available back in the day, the overall situation would have been very similar to what we are witnessing today. Arnold and his crew would have enjoyed millions of followers on Twitter, billions of Facebook likes and personal YouTube channels with rivers of subscribers. On the other hand, Mike Mentzer would have probably abused the hell out of Twitter and Facebook to criticize high volume training and promote heavy duty routines.
The muscle heroes of yesteryears are no different from the current champions. The important values are still the same. One could argue that the lifting population used to train much harder back in the day, but guess what? The core of bodybuilding has not changed either.
Steroids are still here, aren’t they? The media claiming that supplements can help you achieve steroid-like results are not going anywhere either. Therefore, we cannot say that social media and quad-core smartphones have modified the deep core of the muscle industry.
At the end of the day, everything old was once new and looked upon with skepticism and disdain. Twenty years from now, there will be other crazy machines that I will most likely treat with hostility: “Back in the day, you actually had to write something and hit enter to send it, not just think about it, you know…”
My final answer is that the gym culture was not better before the social media and smartphone revolution. It definitely had some unique charm, but better? You have to be kidding me. If we go into a time machine and return to the so-called golden years, you will find out that the envy, lies, deception, hatred, health problems, back stabs and sadness were present there too. There isn’t an apparatus that can take these away from our human nature. They are staying with us until the end.