One of the defining characteristics of the largest social network is the way it allows its users to share their thoughts. With the help of status updates and associated emoticons, Facebook allows its users to share exactly how they are feeling. But sometimes select emoticons and hateful status updates tend to hurt other users feelings. Although hateful status updates are the responsibility of the users themselves, the emoticon associated with them could mean that the social network is endorsing their negative opinions.
Previously Facebook’s emoticon library included a “Feeling Fat” symbol that allowed users to enforce digital body shaming among their friends. Therefore, a group called Endangered Bodies launched a change.org petition, appealing Facebook to remove the emoticon. Within days the petition garnered more than 16,000 signatures, therefore urging the giant social network to reconsider their opinion.
On 10th March 2015, Facebook responded by,” We’ve heard from our community that listing “feeling fat” as an option for status updates could reinforce negative body image, particularly for people struggling with eating disorders. So we’re going to remove “feeling fat” from the list of options. We’ll continue to listen to feedback as we think about ways to help people express themselves on Facebook.”
This was among the numerous petitions launched by Endangered Bodies to “challenge the current toxic culture that promotes negative body image”. A number of activists and organizations joined the US based petition filed by Catherine Weingarten.
Catherine Weingarten is a 24 year old student from Ohio University. The petition page describes in detail the precise reason why she and people with eating disorders felt the need to remove the emoticon. She was a victim of eating disorder and has struggled for years trying to overcome and avoid negative thoughts about her body. She understands that there are thousands of people like her still struggling with worse cases of eating disorders. They have to starve themselves to death, just to keep themselves fit. People’s opinion about one’s body and eating habits is another major obsession they have to face on a regular basis. Therefore a user posting on Facebook that he/she is feeling fat is in fact making fun of other people who are overweight and have little or no control over their eating disorders. She argued, “Fat is not a feeling. Fat is a natural part of our bodies, no matter their weight. And all bodies deserve to be respected and cared for.”
The Other Side of the Argument
The other side of the petition presents a uniquely new perspective about the emoticon. Some people argue that it is casual for anyone to feel fat when they have eaten more than they should have. They consider the emoticon as a figure of speech instead of an adjective that describes overweight people. Unfortunately, health and social experts want such users to understand the feelings of overweight people and the impact their words can have in their day to day lives.
Facebook stands as an unbeatable social network only because it provides a sense of connection and belonging among its users. It urges people to share and express themselves among their friends. With its 1.39 billion active users, it has the ability to make an impact on the society and ways people express themselves. The set of emoticons along with status updates allows users to attract attention of their fellow mates allowing users to support each other in times of need. To control and monitor cases of abuse of bullying, Facebook provides necessary information and resources to its users, further allowing them to gain control over the situation. Such independence and control over user’s expression allows Facebook to build a better internet where people are not only connected with each other but also stand up for a cause that could change significant aspects of our defective society. Numerous petitions are filed on Change.org allowing users to express concern about societies requirements and ways by which the social network can create a better place for each of its users.