Facebook’s latest PR blunder has left some feeling something unusual, probably angry, annoyed, or insulted, but certainly not “fat.” Facebook has been under the public eye for its lack of security protocols. It has been scrutinized by its over one billion users and overly friendly relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA). Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO and co-founder, along with his board and corporate cohorts, has successfully managed to aggravate the public again with this foolish stunt.
An online petition, created by Ohio University playwright, Catherine Weingarten, via TheChange.Org, demands that Facebook removes the “fat” emoji from the status update options. This fat face has sparked an Internet-wide debate whether or not Zuckerberg and his company promotes body shaming. The body-positive group Endangered Bodies supported Weingarten’s petition and believes the emoji encourages “self destructive thoughts.” Though it is unlikely an emoji alone would make someone disenfranchised or even suicidal, it does nothing but hinder those whose self esteem is already low because of weight issues.
The petition continued to state that, “fat is not a feeling…and all bodies deserve respect.” After only two weeks, the petition has gotten over 14,000 signatures, just shy of its 15,000 signature goal, and has generated a buzz on Twitter with #fatisnotafeeling. A Facebook spokesperson managed to successfully evade answering the challenge from those who wanted clarification, or even addressing the issue of body image directly, simply recapping on how to use emojis on Facebook. As though reading off a FAQ answer list, he excused Facebook’s insensitive stunt by saying that users can create their own emoji, as though that solves the problem.
Weingarten, who has struggled with an eating disorder herself, feels the issue hits close to home for the millions of people who struggle with diseases such as anorexia, bulimia, and obesity. Weingarten explained that Facebook’s fat emoji was trivializing their user’s experiences and validating negative body attitudes that already run rampant in society of what is socially acceptable. Claire Mysko, director of programs for the National Eating Disorder Association, seconded Weingarten’s claims, stressing Facebook’s negative impact on the fight against such diseases.
Anybody who thinks that the petition and the reasons behind it may be oversensitive needs to remember how huge Facebook has become in such a short amount of time. Facebook, along with Twitter and YouTube, is the major online venue through which social ideas and norms are perpetrated, amplified, and oftentimes defended against less conformist ideas. It then comes as little surprise that the entrepreneurial Zuckerberg would endorse the idea that being thin is the only acceptable body type. When people use a free networking site that makes a profit by selling user information to third party companies, people need to take responsibility for what they post and share online. Hopefully, in the near future, people on Facebook and other networking sites will wise-up and ditch the info-snatching site in favor of networks that are more inclusive of different ideas, promote positivity, and do not encourage feeling fat.
Opinion by Danielle Kral
Photo by Scott Beale – Flickr License