Facebook has changed its “feeling fat” emoji to a “feeling stuffed” icon after an online petition drew thousands of signatures. The Change.org campaign also included a hashtag #FatIsNotAfeeling.
Catherine Weingarten and her group Endangered Bodies is responsible for the campaign, which argued that the “feeling fat” emoji (a chubby face with a double chin) was harmful to people who are battling eating disorders and negative body images. She writes in the petition:
As someone who has struggled with and overcome disordered eating, I know what it’s like to “feel” fat. I have spent years of my life consumed with negative thoughts about my body, and far too many days starving myself in an effort to lose weight. But even worse than the skipped meals and the hours spent obsessing in front of the mirror was the fear of what others thought about me and my body.
According to USA Today, Facebook was reluctant to change the emoji at first, but has since made the shift. In a statement, spokeswoman, MoMo Zhou 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. So we’re going to remove ‘feeling fat’ from the list of options.”
The last thing that Facebook needs is to seem insensitive to its users. If making this shift is a better and less hurtful solution, then it’s the right decision.
But it’s also a reminder to all of those companies that are operating on social media that emojis aren’t just joke cartoon characters. They have been transformed into a legitimate form of communication. The Library of Congress has even accepted an emoji version of the classic Moby Dick, with the creator interviewed by The New Yorker about the endeavor.
It may seem ridiculous to some, but it’s important that we keep up with the ways language and communication are changing, particularly PRs. The goal is to communicate effectively and appropriately. And you want to say what you mean rather than cause unintended offense. Oftentimes, emojis are the silly pictures we add to the end of a text or a social media post. But every once in a while, they aren’t.