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Greetings dear friends, it's nice to be with you again. This week I took my first piano lesson in 30 years. 🎹 Cool birthday present, eh? 🎁 They say it's just like riding a bike, although almost immediately the guy was insisting I climb off his piano, so 🤷🏻‍♂️. This week, some heavy lifting:

 Gymfluencers : Working out was once a purely athletic and pseudo-anonymous pursuit of fitness. To work out conspicuously was crass and risible. Though the broad adoption of social media documents a rapid change. For many, it's a thing to be seen to do (see #fitnesslife, #fitfam, #gymlife, #shredded, #instafit etc.).

The general shift transcends gym and online culture, supported by fitness personalities and self-styled 'gymfluencers': some have secured lucrative endorsement but a great many more form a diverse mix of motivations. Some virtue-signalling, some conspicuous consumption, some out-and-out vanity, and some genuine interest in fitness.

As with so many social influencers though, there's much more noise than real expertise. The barrage of content celebrates fitness extremes, distracting from smaller-scale, beneficial things we can all do to stay physically healthy. A more relaxed perception of physical appearance would undoubtedly be healthy too.

Fitness driven by vanity has dark consequences, possibly at the level of a public health issue. When analysing a fatberg from London's sewers, illegal gym supplements were found in greater quantities than cocaine and ecstasy. There could be a million people using them, and it's enough to put NHS experts on alert.

Fortunately, increasing interest in wellness manifests in ways other than just relentless snapshots of six-packs. My favourite at the moment is the sober-curious trend of moderation and re-examining the role of alcohol in socialising.  🏋️‍♀️
💣 Carole Cadwalladr: Facebook's role in Brexit—and the threat to democracy: Now, here's a TED Talk. Digging into the 2016 referendum and the influence of targetted advertising on social platforms, admirable truth-warrior Cadwalladr calls out the "gods of Silicon Valley" for being on the wrong side of history. Make sure to watch this one.  I'll wait.

🛰 Pepsi Mercifully Spares Humanity From Its Space Billboards—for Now. I've been rereading the excellent Red Dwarf novels, inspired by this Rule of Three podcast episode featuring Katy Brand. A vessel owned by Coca-Cola induces the supernova of 128 stars to create a message in the sky visible even in daylight: "COKE ADDS LIFE!". Life imitates art far more than art imitates life 🙄

🤸 Nearly half of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People are women. Influential women are starting getting credit for changing the world directly, and without going through their husband or partner to do so. Encouraging signs. One day this won't be newsworthy.

🎸 Independent alt-folk singer-songwriter Amelle Rose is playing live in London on Saturday. Or listen to her latest single 'Rain' on Spotify.

👧🏾 Marsai Martin is my new hero. When the agents of the Black-ish star explained there weren't any other roles for young black girls, she fired them. She's now Hollywood's youngest executive producer, at 14.
 Disruption of the third space : many leisure retail brands (gyms, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, etc.) are in the business of selling a 'third' space, i.e. somewhere that isn't your home or your workplace. Pricey central-London health-club chain Third Space wears this fact on its sleeve, in an act of brand imitating business-model:
When the UK felt reasonably affluent, business boomed. But in the wake of the financial crisis and the EU referendum, many have claimed to feel the pressure of more frugal consumers. Meanwhile another trend is at play; new entrants, typically highly digitally-enabled businesses, are disrupting—not just the established brands but the wider concept of a third space. Deliveroo and Uber Eats cut into restaurant footfall. Netflix (and chill) cuts into bar/pub/club takings.

High-street traders are quick to blame 'online discounters' (i.e. Amazon), but undercutting is perhaps the least interesting online behaviour. What successful online-era brands do is blur boundaries. They're masterful at taking something's limited availability and expanding it, be that books or cars or gyms or whatever.

Exemplifying this is Peloton. It's connected fitness hardware designed to take gym-membership benefits (such as availability of trainers) to the home. But Peloton is no online discounter. This is seriously expensive kit, presented in an overtly affluent world.

But if you see an overpriced exercise bike with a iPad attached, look past the hardware. Peloton is changing home exercise: they're blurring the line between the third space and the home, and this is where disruption happens. Our online personas transcend physical location. For the consumer, there's a tension between whether to buy a gym membership or a smart exercise bike. More viscerally, there's a decision about the how the purchases we make represent the kind of people we are. Once, that was the kind of people who go to the gym; next, perhaps not. 💪
 Finally : 73 Questions With Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Superb. When I grow up I want to be Phoebe Waller-Bridge. 👑

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