Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

Status updates and the community


Today I was browsing my newsfeed on Facebook and I came across a status update in which, instead of mentioning she was having problems with self-harm urges, she let her friends know the specifics of where and how she cut.  I’ve noticed this sad trend lately–the status updates that detail the specifics, i.e. how and where someone cut, how much weight someone has lost, how many times they’ve purged in the past day.

Apparently, it is now fashionable to trigger the hell out of other people with status updates as well as photographs.

It’s not me I’m worried about.  I get annoyed at these posts, but I am not triggered.  But I’ve been in really solid recovery for over three years and started working for recovery over five years ago.  A status update from someone I hardly know isn’t going to change that.  I am worried about the people on Facebook who aren’t yet in recovery or who are new to recovery.

Sure, you can unfriend people.  But that will only prevent future instances of being triggered.  It does nothing to help the current situation or feeling.

And you can “justify” the status updates by saying they are a cry for help or a way of getting support, but why in crying out for help do you want to jeopardize the welfare of others?  Because that’s exactly what is happening.  Being so casual about the specifics of these illnesses is only causing harm to this community.  And it is a community.  Facebook itself is one big community, and then within that community is the eating disordered community.  You can break down the eating disorder community into smaller communities: recovered, questioning recovery, just beginning recovery, ambivalent, pro-ana.  It would be one thing if we could select our community and then be protected from the invasion of other, less-healthy communities, but we can’t.  You can unfriend and block people, but that newsfeed still tells you what your friends are doing and what friends of friends are doing and in this way, we see things that we wouldn’t normally choose to see.  So if you are new to recovery and are trying to surround yourself with supportive people and then you see that your friend is also friends with “forever ana” and suddenly you see a pro-ana image and message on your newsfeed.  The only way to truly block these messages and images is to leave Facebook altogether.

Being part of a community means considering the welfare of the general community.  Think about what you are writing when you post a status update or leave a comment on someone’s wall.  Think about how it’s being perceived by others.  If you feel the need to give specifics beyond “I’m having a really shitty day” or “things aren’t going very well right now” think about how those specifics are affecting others.  I don’t need to know that you lost X pounds or that you needed X stitches to know that you are in pain and hurting.

I’m afraid this trend of specificity is going to turn into a competition.  I’m also afraid that someone who is considering seeking help might read one of these status updates and think, “I’m not as sick as she is, why am I asking for help?”  When turned into a competition, these illnesses are even more deadly than they already are, and anything that makes someone question whether they are worthy of treatment is hurting the community as a whole.

You may think this is a pointless post.  After all, what can you actually do to stop status updates like this?  But I’m hoping that maybe one person reads this and changes his or her status update.  Then maybe one of his or her friends will notice and that person might change his or her status update.  This is my naive and hopeful mind insisting that change is possible, however small that change may be.

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August 13, 2011 - Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, relationships, self harm | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. The person may not realize he or she is doing this, or how his or her status can affect other people. Perhaps there is a tactful way you could let the person know, without the person getting offended.

    Comment by Christina | August 13, 2011 | Reply

  2. Great post – this is definitely a very important issue that needs to be addressed!

    (I’m going to preface this by saying that I am NOT blaming us for people’s triggering status updates/pictures/etc., and that I do believe that it is our responsibility to think about the impact of our posts on other people) Perhaps people are motivated to post these kinds of statuses because they generate the most amount of comments (either expressing concern, frustration, etc.) leading them to believe that people only care about them when they are ill (and so they feel they must “prove” they are ill through these posts). Which leads to question of how we should respond to these statuses without feeding into (pardon the pun…) this behavior. Do we ignore them, and instead comment more on posts where they are genuinely asking for help without being triggering? Express frustration/give constructive criticism? Does ignoring triggering posts encourage people to include more and more details to try to get more responses? Or will they increase the details about weight/etc. but only until they realize that it isn’t generating the kinds of comments they “want”?

    Sorry for rambling – I hope this makes sense!

    Comment by anon | August 13, 2011 | Reply

    • You made a lot of sense. And I wish I knew the answer to the problem. How *should* we respond to these comments? I know that I, personally, do not comment on them. But me alone not commenting on them isn’t enough to change anything. I honestly haven’t tried to express my frustration with them in a response. Maybe I should and see what happens.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | August 14, 2011 | Reply

  3. My greatest fear is that eating disorders and (even more so) self injury are becoming trendy. That instead of being someone’s deep dark secret (which isn’t good either) that young people are using these behaviors to garnish attention and gain popularity. I find this very, very scary.

    Comment by Alex | August 15, 2011 | Reply

  4. I just deactivated my facebook the other day out of this frustration! I know that my friends who I made while in treatment aren’t doing it for attention or consciously as a competition. But, they are also still struggling and clinging desperately to ED as their identity and needing to find outlets to justify it. It was especially hard to watch my friends all go back into treatment centers as if they were following each other in order to have that bonding experience again together. I know that’s not that case but for all of my amazing/strong friends who have SO much potential it was too frustrating to watch the Facebook documentation of their disorder. I can’t support it, it’s too easy. I am there to support them if they feel like contacting me personally but not as a status update.

    Comment by vanmetek | October 24, 2011 | Reply


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