Fat is not a feeling. At least, not according to Facebook.
Facebook announced on March 10 it would be removing “feeling fat” as an option for users when updating their status. Facebook has since replaced it with “feeling stuffed” accompanied by the same chubby-cheeked emoticon.
Catherine Weingarten, a graduate student from Ohio State University, paired up with the organization Endangered Bodies in February to create a petition on Change.org to remove “feeling fat” as an option on Facebook
The petition amassed more than 16,000 signatures before Facebook announced it would implement the change.
The campaign took on a life of its own on Twitter as well. The hashtag #FatIsNotAFeeling was tweeted more than 5,000 times in the past 30 days, according to social media analytics website Topsy.com.
Facebook posted a statement on Change.org in response to the campaign that said, “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.”
Weingarten spearheaded the petition because she has struggled with body image issues in the past and knows the harm of fat talk, she said in an email interview.
“As a big Facebook user and social media chick, I am hyperaware of the effects social media has on young people’s lives, especially when it comes to body image,” she said.
Humber counsellor Liz Sokol, who was unaware of the campaign, said she thinks it’s a good idea Facebook removed the option because “fat” and “feeling” are not words that go together.
“You can feel happy, you can be fat. But ‘feeling fat’, what does that mean really?” she said.
Sokol also said many students who come to her for counselling are not happy with their bodies.
“I think you’d have to be pretty naïve to think the media hasn’t played a big part in that, whether it be social media or magazines,” she said.
College students are particularly susceptible to having body image issues because they are still forming their identity and are at a life stage where they are dating and developing relationships, Sokol said.
The campaign wasn’t a victory for everyone, however. Weingarten said she’s received a lot of backlash over Facebook’s decision to remove “feeling fat.”
“I have gotten harassing messages via Twitter and email,” she said. “A lot of people say this is a censor issue, but I don’t see it that way.”
People can still post what they are thinking on Facebook, but no longer have the default “I am feeling fat” option for a status update, Weingarten said.
Weingarten is still satisfied with the outcome despite some of the negative responses.
“I am thrilled I was able to influence change,” she said. “This whole thing really showed me that young activists can stand up and make a difference.”
Weingarten said she’s especially happy she can help start a conversation about body positivity and how people, especially young women, talk about their bodies.
Megan Lehtinen, a second year Humber Fashion Arts student, said she doesn’t know if the change will make much difference.
“I feel like people are going to type anything into their status update, it’s just a suggestion,” she said.
Lehtinen said college students often have a negative body image because they feel like their peers judge them. She said the content on social media sites are often unrealistic but people still compare themselves to it.
“But I think everybody’s body type is different and you can’t judge based on a picture that you see,” Lehtinen said.