Friday, 26 July 2013

Love You for You, Despite what the Internet Says

If you spend any amount of time on the internet, you’ve probably heard of Pinterest. If not, I’ll give
you the run down: Pinterest is an online scrapbooking website wherein users are able to “pin” or post pictures and links to their favourite things. I spend far too much time on the site, making me what they call a “pinaholic.” As a pinaholic, I’ve naturally seen every category on the site. I enjoy browsing all of the items in each category, except for one: Health and Fitness. Allow me to elaborate.

It was my first night as a registered user on Pinterest. As a newcomer to the site, I took some time to
look around the site and become familiar with it. When I came across the Health and Fitness category, I was excited as I am very much into natural health remedies, yoga and keeping myself healthy. It took one click of the mouse to change my mood that fateful evening. The first “pin” I came across had a picture of a woman’s thighs with the caption “Get that inner thigh gap!” Unimpressed, I continued scrolling. The next pin: “Change your natural body shape with these 5 easy moves!” and the next: “3 moves to lose the muffin top.” The trend continued throughout the posts and with every passing pin, I felt worse about myself.

For the next few passing weeks, I became obsessed with my body. I started thinking about all of the
things I needed to change – my muffin top, the fact that my thighs rubbed together, my “apple” body
shape. Preceding my Pinterest experience, I had self-esteem and self-image issues. It has taken years
for me to love myself for who I am, for every nook and cranny, for every imperfection. I had taken many steps and progressed by leaps and bounds when it came to improving the way I viewed myself, and then I ran into one of the biggest obstacles in quite some time – the health and fitness section of Pinterest.

How silly it seems now, how trivial, how ridiculous that I allowed a website to impact how I feel about myself. At the same time I am frustrated that a section of a website that is meant to promote health and well-being can actually be in itself quite destructive. My experience with this category only opened my eyes to other issues with the site that have the potential to negatively impact female users. While browsing the Women’s Fashion category, I did not have to look far to find posts with captions such as: “Dress yourself skinny!” and “How to pick the right bathing suit for your body” (this one included a picture of different sizes of women, the larger the woman, the more cover was suggested).

Being that Pinterest is such a widely used site, I believe it is very important for women and girls who use it to be cautious and think about what they are seeing when they both browse and post on Pinterest (and all social networking and various websites, I should add). It is crucial for us to remember the following:
1. Not everything in health and wellness is truly relevant to improving your well-being
2. Not everything we see on Pinterest or any website is true and always question what you read
3. You are beautiful just the way you are

Whilst browsing the internet, you will find things that upset you. You will find things that make you
question your self-worth, your self-esteem and how you see yourself. So where do you go from here?
If you have Pinterest, post things that encourage positive thinking and that will be beneficial for your
female followers to see. If you use any other websites (including social networking sites), use them to
empower yourself and the women around you. Don’t put up with body shaming, gender shaming or any other kind of negative messaging – it is in our hands to change it, and we have the power!

Jennifer Andrews

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