The digital age has made it possible to vicariously experience life online and almost in real time. From crowning to cringe-inducing moments to crime, hundreds of thousands of El Pasoans keep up with local goings on through social media. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest:
If something happened in El Paso that wasn’t posted on FitFam, did it really happen?
FitFam is a social media account with more than 300k followers that operates as El Paso’s unofficial (and anonymous) Instagram ombudsman. The account has evolved as a page for the local fitness community to a hybrid curated news and culture platform similar to Deux Moi.
Today, FitFam is the most popular Instagram account in El Paso and has a follower count of more than half the city’s population. The anonymous creators behind the account continue to work day jobs while remaining dedicated to posting content, often breaking major news and working with local broadcast journalists, law enforcement, and city officials to keep the community informed in real time.
The City Magazine reached out to FitFam for an on-the-record conversation about the phenomenon of the account and what it’s been like to watch it grow.
The City Magazine
FitFam has become a local cultural phenomenon and trusted resource, where did the inspiration to do this come from?
My brother and I used to be really into fitness and bodybuilding. I started off probably eight years ago, just as a totally fitness page to post fitness tips, memes, things of that nature — but very light-hearted, very much more geared towards the gym audience. Then slowly, we started posting more happenings around the area, like events or funny videos that we thought were interesting. Followers would request that we post other things or suggest that we use our platform to put information out there since we had a growing audience.
What do you consider FitFam’s “industry” to be?
I’ve never even thought about that. We’ve been labeled as some kind of information aggregator. That’s the best word I can think of, just an aggregator.
What have been some of the most memorable posts you’ve made?
When the Cielo Vista Walmart shooting happened on August 3, 2019, I was fortunate enough to hold a position at that time within the city government. Of course, during that day, there were a lot of rumors going around, a lot of official outlets putting things out. We were able to use our platform that day by posting officially verified information, dispel any rumors that were going on, and provide updated information. Typical news outlets are at the mercy of their editors and corporate, they were kind of delayed in information output. Luckily, we don’t have that kind of bureaucratic system that we have to adhere to.
You post so much, from the local high school student who earned the Amazon scholarship to hard news. How do you decide what to share?
I want to put news out there that really matters to the average El Pasoan. I ask myself questions like, “If I’m a regular person from the lower valley, am I going to find this funny? Is this relatable to me?” I pride myself on being from El Paso. Growing up from a pretty average background, I know that the average El Pasoan doesn’t want anything sugar coated. They don’t look for anything that doesn’t relate to their tax bracket.
Something I really admire is the way you’re able to really succinctly contextualize the news, and I think that’s one reason people are so receptive to it. What’s it like for you to go out and see people talking about the page and posting about it, then knowing you’re the mastermind behind it — you’re behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz.
It’s cool, and not something that I realized. It’s so good to know that we have an effect, and a lot of it is positive, but it’s also kind of scary sometimes because we post something or something that people don’t agree with or, you know, some people might have friends whose mug shots were up there and that effectively makes us a target.
I can’t hide behind a new station — it’s just me. So it is kind of scary. So there’s good and bad. I like the fact that people look to the page as something relatable and reliable.
How do you protect your anonymity?
I’ve never put my personal views into it, or talked about myself, or my experiences. I’m careful not to give away too much, especially as of late because the last two years have been very divisive.
You’re in the unique position of knowing El Paso better than almost anyone else at this point because of technology and social media. What do you think are some of the best and most special qualities about El Pasoans, and El Paso as a community?
One thing I can appreciate about people from the Borderland — especially if you’ve grown up here — is that they know life isn’t always pretty. There’s some very dark sides to life that a lot of people growing up here have experienced. In El Paso, we don’t really believe in sugar coating or beating around the bush. People here are very direct and truthful. You’ll always get a straight answer.