Friday, August 28, 2015

Social Media and Eating Disorders

I think I have thrown this rant out there before, but I'm in the mood to complain about things again.

There's not a whole lot of improvement in the social media world when it comes to people posting potentially triggering content. When I look at tweets, blogs and facebook posts of people struggling with an eating disorder, I sometimes wonder if all this sharing is a good thing. Of course, there are many who are committed to recovery, and even some who aren't, who can still provide others with some insight, encouragement even. My biggest problem is with those who constantly post questionable content while pretending they are fully recovered.

I aim for honestly in my posts, and my main goal is to help others. That's why you won't see tons of images of my XXX calorie breakfasts or photos of me pretending to lick an ice cream cone. Readers might remember that I have a thing for ice cream. I eat it. I enjoy it, but I don't feel the need to document my desserts in photos. If this were a food blog, it might be a different story. Quite often, I get the feeling that people who post a lot of food images in recovery blogs are trying to convince themselves they are well when maybe that's not the case. In some instances, it's painfully clear it's not.

But I'm not here to bash anyone, mostly because I couldn't do it with as much flair as Anthony Bourdain, but also because I don't want to be mean. I just have a hard time understanding why people who look incredibly unwell would be motivated to post so many potentially damaging images of themselves. I get more upset when I know the inside story and see that the blogger's content paints an entirely different image, one that's not at all truthful.

When I was sick, I wanted to disappear. The last thing I wanted was to be in photographs. I didn't want people to see my bones sticking out in odd places or my pale, sometimes yellowish skin. More than that, though, I was frank about my struggles and at least admitted I had a problem.

Perhaps social media has encouraged a new way for people to seek attention, a way that's not healthy or constructive, but I wonder what goes through the mind of someone who is so dedicated to broadcasting her compulsions. Is it a cry for help? Is it a symptom of narcissism? Maybe it's a warped way of seeking approval. Ultimately, my concern with all these attention-seeking attitudes is that what's depicted in blog posts etc. can end up sending the wrong message, especially to others who might be struggling.

Nobody who's trying to recover needs to be reading: "LOOK AT ME! I WEIGH  XX POUNDS, AND I JUST ATE A CUPCAKE FOR DINNER!" It's fine to eat a cupcake for dessert and even mention it, especially if you're breaking through some fears around it, but do it and be done with it. We don't need to see an entire documentary about your date with a cupcake, the hours and minutes leading up to it and all that goes on relating to it for days and days after the big event. If you want to get into the calories, point exchanges, exercise changes, meal replacements and restrictions leading up to eating the thing, that's not helpful in any way. It's a fucking cupcake.

I want to make it clear, though, that there's a difference between someone committed to recovery posting images of herself enjoying a meal, snack or dessert, maybe even with friends, and someone who's sick posting an image of her 1/2 cup of non-fat yogurt in a bowl with 1/2 a small banana and 10 frozen blueberries claiming it's a "recovery meal" after a 9-mile jog, especially if this person calls herself a coach or life coach. Um, no, that's hardly even a snack! What confuses me more is that these types of posts often get the most likes and encouraging comments, but there's a dangerous message in there, one that the poster should acknowledge. And I'm sorry, but posting something like that probably isn't helping you, your readers or anyone, really, because you're focused on the symptoms.

The struggle for anyone suffering from an eating disorder is real and often life threatening. That's why I get so upset about these kinds of issues. I'm not making light of anything here. I just wish people would move away from their own obsessions with details, numbers and fears and stop inflicting their unhealthy patterns onto others under the guise that it's healthy. Again, I'm not talking about anyone who's merely trying to process -- I do a lot of that here -- or being honest about what she's doing, and I'm definitely not talking about anyone who's seeking help. I'm talking about people who try to give the illusion that they have their shit together when it's so very obvious they don't. Mostly I'm talking about people who are unable to think about how their actions might affect someone else.

There are times when I can't look at running or training blogs, because I know seeing posts from streakers, high-mileage boasters and race-every-weekend types can upset me. That's my own shit. These kinds of posts can be very inspirational to others and probably are. I just don't want to get into comparing where I am with anyone or where I wish I could be with where I am now, but I fully support people being able to post whatever they like. In these instances, it's easy for me to look away and know that I'm not perfect and need to take steps to make sure I'm doing all I can to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

I'm more concerned with people being honest about what they post in so called recovery blogs or health-related blogs. Yes, it's up to the reader to look the other way if need be, but if you claim to be a mentor, health professional, someone in the women's health field or even someone who struggles with an eating disorder, at least have some sense that what you post could possibly negatively affect someone. Ask yourself why you're posting it, and then go one step further and ask yourself what message you're trying to send.

As far as where I'm at with everything, I know that any time I'm getting too caught up in details or other people's issues, it's time for me to take a step back, reflect, listen and search for some inner peace. That's easier to do away from the computer. Sometimes it's just fatiguing to be exposed to other people's shit, but I should have more patience since I was once very ill too. I can't say I'm ever triggered by online content, but I guess I'm somehow affected or at least concerned that others might be and get a little bit angry about how insensitive others can be.

For the record, none of the blogs I follow fall into this category, so if you are looking for inspiration, please feel free to click on any of the links to blogs on my list.

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