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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Toxic Pinning: Is Social Media the New Frontier For Fat-Shaming?

Toxic Pinning: Is Social Media the New Frontier For Fat-Shaming?

Social media is one of my top five favorite things. I’m on Facebook and Tumblr multiple times a day, and Pinterest is a relatively new hobby. I love having access to my friends and new people while putting my own personal twist on my Web experience. Social media is something that is incredibly popular for adolescents, and I ascertain that is so because we’re at a time in our lives when we are working to determine who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to get there, there is so little that we understand enough to control. This lack of control in our lives is sated when we get online and control who can see our sites and we can post material that we think is important. We have an opportunity to run our own little slice of the online scene.

Adolescence is also a period in our lives when we are transitioning from the most egotistical stage of childhood to a stage of balance between altruism and egotism as adults. Having countless forums in the online world to communicate what we care about also leaves the floor open to center our online universe around ourselves without apology. This freedom isn’t often something we have in the classroom or in reality, so the fact that there is a virtual space where we can is a big deal.

Not only is adolescence a transition from childhood to adulthood, but we are also seeing a transition in the social media outlets — an evolution from just text to text and images. Several years ago it was just about telling the world about us; now we have the opportunity to show the world what we think, and the implications of that are huge considering that pictures can be worth a thousand words.

The online forum where this is most prevalent is the social media network Pinterest — all it is is pictures! What’s amazing about walls of pictures is that with one click they can link you to a million other forums you would never have heard about otherwise. If a picture’s content is intriguing enough, you may be motivated to click it and check it out. That’s incredible power. Not only that, you can store these power-packed pictures on countless of your “boards,” arranged in similarly countless categories.

Naturally, one of our favorite categories includes pinned pictures related to our bodies. There are categories featuring links to exercise ideas, there are photos featuring links to diet ideas, and what many of these pins have in common are the subjects of the photos themselves. Many of these pins are characterized with photos of men or women half-dressed, lifting their shirts to expose their stomachs, or gripping an alleged “muffin-top” with a catchy caption claiming an end-all-be-all “cure” for the assumed inadequate body (part) of the reader.

As I scroll halfway down the general newsfeed page without any search categories selected, I still see at least eight or nine of these types of pins. In an effort to love my body, I don’t pin these photos because I don’t find them particularly motivating in regard to anything but fat-shaming my own body. I see these photos and I feel guilty about whatever I had for to eat that day, knowing what I ingested can’t possibly have me en route to achieve a body like that.

The incredibly brilliant thing about marketing techniques surrounding cosmetics, foods, and clothing is that the advertisers’ goal is to make you think you need whatever their ads are promoting. In order to make you need the product they are selling, the advertisements must convince you that you are lacking or incomplete without it.

Even though these pins aren’t put out there by professional marketing firms to sell specific diets or gym memberships, they still achieve the same result: not necessarily going after that product, but always making you feel inadequate because you do not look like that person featured in the photo.

What’s even worse is that we are doing it to ourselves! Every time we pin a picture of a woman with super defined ab muscles on Pinterest and write in the caption “motivation for my perfect beach bod,” or pin a picture of a woman’s thigh gap and write in the caption “inspiration,” we are discounting our own body’s function, strength, and worth.

In an effort to, instead, motivate ourselves toward increasing body appreciation and to inspire us to question the mantra that has one body type as its poster child, I ask everyone to analyze what they are posting on their social media sites. If we are aware of our thoughts and understand the ramifications of our actions, we are not as likely to be at a detriment when we come into contact with forums designed with a high premium one-size-does-not-fit-all mindset.

Written by Emily Vrotsos
Follow her blog, Bend it. Break it. All of it.