Fat is not a feeling and it shouldn’t be an emoji either. So says a group of body-image activists who have started a petition on change.org asking Facebook to remove the “feeling fat” emoticon.
The chubby-cheeked, double-chinned emoji is one of about 50 “feelings” icons the social network’s users can add to their updates. The petition to remove it was initiated last week by Catherine Weingarten of Endangered Bodies, a group that “challenges the current toxic culture that promotes negative body image.”
So far the petition has 15,500 signatures and counting.
Weingarten said she got the idea after she saw a friend’s status set to “feeling fat,” accompanied by the supersized icon. She didn’t find it amusing.
“When Facebook users set their status to ‘feeling fat,’ they are making fun of people who consider themselves to be overweight, which can include many people with eating disorders,” Weingarten told ABC News.
Weingarten, a 24-year-old graduate student at Ohio State University, said she considered the rounded, red-face icon far from harmless. And, she said, it sends a negative message of people of all shapes and sizes.
“I think we all need to be a little more careful about how we talk about their bodies and learn how to use a more body positive vocabulary,” she said.
Claire Mysko, the director of programs for the National Eating Disorders Association, said while social media doesn’t cause eating disorders, negative body talk in comments, a status or a share can amplify thoughts and behaviors that can lead to one. NEDA advises Facebook and other social networks on policies that might affect the body image of users.
“When body hatred is normalized, that’s unhealthy for everyone,” she said. “On the flip side, body positivity in social media can be a powerful tool both in recovery and early intervention.”
The social network issued a statement to ABC News, making no promises to remove the controversial emoticon.
“People use Facebook to share their feelings with friends and support each other. One option we give people to express themselves is to add a feeling to their posts. You can choose from over 100 feelings we offer based on people’s input or create your own,” the statement read.
Weingarten said that is not good enough.
“With 890 million users each day, it has the power to influence how we talk to each other about our bodies,” Weingarten said of Facebook. “I dream that one day the platform will actively encourage body positivity and self-esteem among its users, but for now, all I ask is that it stop endorsing self-destructive thoughts through seemingly harmless emojis.”