Opinion | Being the fat friend, part two

Published by Sarah Anderson, Date: March 7, 2023
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Sarah Anderson (2023)

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mentions of eating disorders. Please use caution before reading. 


Hey, it’s me. The girl who was assaulted by a honey bun walking to the football field last year (actually a year ago as of last week, Feb. 24 will forever be in my memory).

I previously wrote an opinion piece, “Being the fat friend” where I talked about the bad experiences that come along with that title.

There is so much more I want to add to the discussion about being the fat friend, and the things people don’t think or talk about. But right now, I have some other stuff I want to address, that as a fat person, really bugs me.

Social media is such a wonderful thing, but also so damaging. As college students, we spend the majority of our free time residing in this digital landscape. We have the opportunity to share whatever we want, educate on current issues and spread information.

One thing we don’t talk about enough is how much we are indirectly harming each other.

This campaign to take over social media feeds this week is #EDAW (Eating Disorder Awareness Week). This, as well as many other social media trends surrounding these sensitive topics, are crucial for us as a society to talk about.

But these types of campaigns are also incredibly harmful and can be more negative than people realize.

I want to make it clear, I am not talking negatively in any way about EDAW, or any other important social media-fueled conversation. Hell, I participate in #worldsuicidepreventionday, but the difference I see is that I don’t use this as a way to trauma dump.

I see it on all my social media from people with various following counts and “statuses,” and it’s enraging every time.

The frustrating thing is seeing people be so open about the importance of mental health and caring for others, but they don’t think much about the things they are posting and what fire they may be fueling without realizing it.

In an opinion story by The Amherst Student, the writers reference the term “slacktivism,” which is defined as “lax engagement that starts and ends with clicking Facebook’s share button or a retweet — creates an illusion of progress but rarely results in real change.”

With topics as sensitive as eating disorder awareness and the real changes we need to make as a society, there is a lot of slacktivism that we all partake in. I will continue to reiterate, I partake in this messaging, too, and am just as guilty.

I can admit that at times I feel like it’s almost performative in the stuff that I post because I am not doing anything to enact real change. I’m just clicking “post to the story” and moving about my day.

Sure, the fun quote I posted might catch somebody’s eye. It might make them think. If I am really lucky, they will click on the post and read the caption. That’s a huge “maybe,” if they even read the full caption.

Whether it’s an in-feed or story post, we are still taking part in spreading messages. It doesn’t matter if it’s our own post or one that we share from a different user. Maybe I am a little bit biased as a communication major who likes to think extensively about messaging, tone and audience reception.

We should think about the implications of what we are posting and how it effects our audience.

My social media is flooded with people posting images of their bodies at various stages of recovery with the hashtag. Recently, the term “body checking” has been circulating across social media.

According to Refinery29, body checking is defined as “the act of taking mental notes of one’s body shape or weight.” And it takes place offline, too, but it is now silently making its way into people’s algorithms.

The previously-mentioned article notes some TikTok body checking trends are of someone attempting to drink from a cup with their arm around another person’s waist, or trends encouraging people to share about their weight and body image. This is among the dozens of other more discrete ways.

Back to messaging, more specifically, what you share and how it’s reading to the audience (This opinion piece is being fueled by an audience member with strong opinions… that’s me).

Pretty quotes you post with images of your body or softly filtered videos do not change the way that your post may enable destructive behaviors that you are trying to prevent.

I have more feelings about the ways that eating disorder awareness, and the unfortunate culture that surrounds eating disorders, totally omit fat people and their experiences. But that’s a story for another day. Maybe in “Being the fat friend, part 3.”

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Sarah is a senior Strategic Communication and Media major with concentrations in integrated marketing and healthcare communication. She has been a part of the Campus Life section of The Rocket since her freshman year, but now she is leaping into Copy/Web. In her free time, Sarah likes to crochet and watch "Gilmore Girls" with her cat, Church.

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