“Fat” is an emotion, according to Facebook

As a new member of Facebook, I frequently find myself flummoxed by its strange ways. Someone “liked” my “status”? I’ve been invited to play “Candy Crush”? Someone has “poked” me? Usually, with much grumbling and cursing in Yiddish, I find some way to adapt to the world of countable likes, crushes on inanimate objects, and intangible pokes. However, I recently came across something that required more than a few oy veys: “fat” is an emotion on Facebook.

Hidden cleverly among the pre-written emotional updates (e.g. “Feeling happy”, “Feeling annoyed”, etc.) is the phrase “Feeling fat”, accompanied by a rosey-cheeked, double-chinned smiley face. While I have no problem with Facebook offering its users the chance to express and connect over quite varied emotions, the potential expression of and connection over the “emotion” of “fat” concerns me. What is the difference between saying one feels fat and saying one has fat? What do people expect their friends to say in response to their feeling? Does the openness regarding feeling fat perpetuate or reduce fat shame?

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, one of the warning signs of anorexia is “frequent comments about feeling ‘fat'”. The expression of fat as a negative feeling rather than a necessary part of the body is messed up, to say the least. Saying one feels fat objectifies emotions and creates a tricky sort of codependence between weight and mind (i.e. “If I’m having certain emotions, my weight must fluctuate accordingly.” and vice versa). This article from the blog Dances With Fat¬†provides some insight regarding the terminological issues of “being fat” versus “having fat”.

Whether people update their Facebook feelings as “fat” jokingly, negatively, or positively, fat stigma – and the general nature of Facebook¬†– is likely to facilitate self-shaming comments from friends. I can just picture it: “You think YOU’RE feeling fat?” and the body-snarking like.

I believe that words hold power. What we post on Facebook can majorly impact our perceptions of ourselves, our friends, and our world. It will be interesting to see whether “Feeling fat” increases in usage and creates more toxicity in the world of body image, or “Feeling fat” sits unused in the depths of Facebook emotions. I know that I won’t be changing my feeling to fat anytime soon, partly because I have no idea how to do so on Facebook, but mostly because I want to use social media in a way that doesn’t portray fat as negative, that helps build self-esteem, and that differentiates between legitimate feelings and socially constructed ones.

Elizabeth Frankel is a Minnesotan who loves psychology, theatre, and anything related to horses. She seeks to understand why the world is the way it is through critical thinking, and when that fails, she just employs sarcasm.

7 thoughts on ““Fat” is an emotion, according to Facebook

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  1. Great piece! Please continue to share your contemplations as you dive into the world of Facebook. Your opening and closing sentences of the last paragraph are spot on! Bold is brilliant!

  2. Couldn’t disagree more. Feeling fat is similar to feeling heavy, these are not emotions, please do try to use some common sense instead of trying to find an issue where there is none. I can have fat AND be fat too, the two things are vastly different. Ever heard of one word having two or more meanings?

    Please stop oversimplifying everything, this blog sometimes really makes me think, are you actually serious when you write these articles, or just a good attempt at trolling? Are these really your problems? Are there really people, for whom this is an issue big enough to write and publish?

    There are fat people, get over it. If someone is “proud to be” fat, that is just stupid. Being “happy and content in my own shape” is good. Being “proud to be fat” is just simply idiotic. Makes it sound like you worked hard, day and night, eating, drinking, collecting all that fat with the sole purpose of becoming larger, and now you accomplished your goal and you are proud. Really? You can be proud to be athletic, that’s something you worked for, trained, planned, walked towards purposefully. You cannot be proud of being tall or short.

    Rant over. I really do hope thatmost of these articles are just decently mediocre attempts to trolling because if people actually occupy their brains with this and really think like this, this actually scares me more than any kind of “unrealistic body image” in the media.

  3. Interesting thought, but not what the article is about. You yourself stated at the beginning of you self-defined “rant” that “fat” is not an emotion, which is quite literally what this article is stating. I believe that the writer is trying to point out the inconsistencies between feeling “anxious” or “happy” as Facebook includes and feeling “fat”. The addition of this “emotion” leads to the mindset of “fat” replacing happy, or nervous as a viable emotion. Which we know that it is not. If you had an amazing day, got a promotion at work you may feel happy. If a loved one died you may feel sad. These are emotions we recognize and have that are a direct cause of something happening in our lives. Which is actually the definition of emotion (“a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others”) however “fat” does not come as a result of such things and should not be considered an emotion. Furthermore, allowing the use of “fat” as an emotion is troubling in the sense that, because it is not truly an emotion, we must wonder what the insinuations are. If “fat” is to become synonymous with “sad” we have a serious problem. You’ve said that being fat isn’t something to be proud of and that’s your own opinion but you also said it is good to be happy and content with one’s own shape. Allowing “fat” to be counted as an emotion distracts from this objective, especially when being fat is so strongly associated with the negative ideas it holds today. Your anger about this being the biggest problem people write about confuses me. It is a problem and should be addressed. While there may be, and are, larger problems out there then day-to-day occurrences why can not we address both? Why can not we help people on a grand scale and also the insecure teen on Facebook whose perception of fat as en emotion is magnified by this, who will go on to using it to describe sadness perhaps and therefor associate the two individual events as oner? Who will then go on to do anything to avoid being “fat”. Why does the push to have a better attitude towards fat disturb you? Why do people who think clearly and critically and can see the repercussions, perhaps within themselves, frighten you? Feeling fat is not similar to feeling heavy in the sense that “heavy” is defined “a great weight” or “feeling weighed down, such as by weariness” in these situations heavy literally translates to a derivative of sad. Fat has no such definition and is applied only when talking about the physical aspects one’s self. Are you stating that to be fat is to be sad? Because it would appear we have come full circle. I guess that I simply do not understand why these ideas are so troubling to you. If anything the majority of your comment would appear to only further the validity of this article. If you do not agree with this article, or the purpose of this organization, by all means, leave their page and take a breath then never return to an article that gives you so much anger.

  4. Me thinks that Ellie is doing some major projecting. Only a troll would have a problem with fat people feeling good about themselves. It’s the height of hypocrisy to claim on the one hand that it’s good to be “happy and content in my own shape” then on the other to denigrate those who are happy and content being fat. Talk about being a troll!

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