Body Shaming on Social Media

By Laura Allen
[Heart of Bodywork]

Social media is fun, isn’t it? People who use it may reconnect with people they haven’t seen since grade school, find long-lost relatives, or meet up with other massage therapists or otherwise like-minded people through groups and forums to share news, jokes, videos, inspirational posts, rants, and any number of other things. Social media is also a great tool for promoting your business, when used in the
right way.
One thing many people fail to consider is how social media may affect the perception of massage therapists. You may think you’re covering your bases by not having clients on your personal social media pages, but that’s not always true for everyone.
Imagine you’re a person thinking about getting your first massage, and you saw the following on a social media post:
I had a client today who must have weighed 300 pounds, and I bet she hasn’t shaved her legs in years. She looked like a fat grizzly bear! EEEW!
Or what about this one:
Some people just have ugly feet! I got a new client today who had the ugliest feet I’ve ever seen. He had weird-looking long bony toes and a bunion the size of a golf ball. He wanted me to work on his feet, and I really wanted to refuse. Just the thought of touching them made me cringe!

Yes, unfortunately, these are real Facebook posts. First, if you are judgmental of people’s bodies in this manner, then you have no business being a massage therapist. It’s part of the job to be accepting and nonjudgmental of people who are overweight, bony, hairy, or hairless, or people who have stretch marks, scars, warts, bunions, corns, physical deformities, amputations, and any other thing that may be unique to their body. Second, posting such things on social media is a surefire way to scare off anyone who might be thinking about visiting a massage therapist. Such comments make the whole massage profession look bad! Besides, these types of comments have no purpose, and they don’t help anyone or have any value.
There are very few people in the world who don’t have some part of their body that they wish was different—including supermodels. What if you visited a dermatologist and later saw a post she made about your bad case of eczema? You wouldn’t like it at all. Your doctor is not on social media making posts about your condition—thank goodness—and you are held to the same standard.

Laura Allen is the massage division director of Soothing Touch. A licensed massage therapist, she is an accomplished author and educator. Contact her at 
Editor’s Note: In 2017, we are delighted to print excerpts from Nina McIntosh’s The Educated Heart, 4th edition. Nina was a longtime Massage & Bodywork columnist. Prior to her death, she handed her work over to Laura Allen, who created a new 2016 edition (adapted with permission from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). Mari Gayatri Stein’s illustrations enrich each edition of the text; she passed away on March 2, 2017.