AIM: The Thinternet: Tool or Tormenter

aim logoThis month’s AIM topic centers on weight loss/maintenance and the internet. Well, not the entire internet, just the parts that focus on weight-related stuff. We’ll save the rest of the internet for another post.

The thinternet, if you will, can be a bit of a…mixed bag. There’s the helpful part, and then there’s the part that does more harm than good and will drive you crazy if you let it.

I think a big part of my weight loss success and (mostly) maintenance to date has been due to the evolution of the internet:
* information (nutritional data, exercise videos, healthy recipes, etc.)
* computer/smart phone apps
* weight/fitness-focused communities
* blogs & blogging

Being older than the internet, I remember what trying to lose weight was like without sparkpeople, calorie-count, Eating Well, blogs and blogging, and so on. Magazines, daytime talk shows (Donahue, anyone? Sally Jesse?), and advice from friends were my primary resources.

So, yeah, for me the ‘thinternet’ is largely a very helpful tool.

And then there’s the rest of it, the part that is, for me, heartbreaking, frustrating, and infuriating.

One aspect of the thinternet that bothers me (as in, breaks my heart) is the growing cult of “thinspiration”, which basically encourages and promotes severe eating disorders. The same technology that allowed me to find information, ideas, and like-minded people that helped me lose weight in a healthy and sustainable way has proven to be a fast track for sharing of tips and ideas on losing excessive amounts of weight in extremely unhealthy ways. I worry that younger women (or older women, feeling hopeless or desperate) will get sucked into the mindset.

And even if they don’t, there’s some indication that simply reading/viewing “pro-ana” sites might still cause negative ripples:

Study participants exposed to the pro-anorexia website had greater negative affect, lower social self-esteem, and lower appearance self-efficacy post-website than those who viewed a comparison website. Additionally, they perceived themselves as heavier, reported a greater likelihood of exercising and thinking about their weight in the near future, and engaged in more image comparison.[International Journal of Eating Disorders]

Most social media platforms (except Twitter) have attempted some measure of restriction over the “pro-ana” and “pro-mia” groups, but haven’t been too successful. However, anyone searching for the hashtag “thinspo” on Pinterest or Tumblr does at least get an offer of help:

thinspo warning pinterest and tumbler

It scares me to think where all this might lead someday. It scares me even more that there doesn’t seem to be a way to make it stop.

There are other aspects of the thinternet that are frustrating: misinformation, fads, absolutism, divisiveness, etc. Those are usually easily dealt with by exercising my pinky-finger-back=button maneuver. Or getting a good night’s sleep. :)

I can’t even form rational thoughts about the scammers and spammers and other scum-sucking parasites that litter the internet and, thanks to ad networks more interested in sales dollars and/or page rank than integrity, deliver their empty promises directly to our inboxes or into the sidebars of the websites we visit. We no longer have to buy a magazine, turn on the television, or even talk to our friends about weight issues. Marketers have access to us on almost every click.

I’m sorry, I have to stop. I feel my blood pressure going up. I told you I can’t talk about those people. :)

In the end, I’ll continue to seek solutions, ideas, and support online and continue to offer my viewpoint via my message of fitness over physique. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll figure out a way to help counteract some of the less desirable aspects of our little corner of the internet.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out what the other AIM bloggers had to say about the thinternet:
Lynn @ Lynn’s Weigh
Lori @ Finding Radiance
Debby @ Debby Weighs In
Shelley @ My Journey to Fit

There’s a good chance they were far more rational and tizzy-less. :)

logo: Adventures in Maintenance with photos

AIM: Adventures in Maintenance is Lynn, Lori, Debby, Shelley, and Cammy, former weight-loss bloggers who now write about life in maintenance. We formed AIM to work together to turn up the volume on the issues facing people in weight maintenance. We publish a post on the same topic on the first Monday of each month. Let us know if there is a topic you’d like us to address!

14 thoughts on “AIM: The Thinternet: Tool or Tormenter

  1. “scammers and spammers and other scum-sucking parasites” You go, girl! There’s a time to be angry and a time to be tolerant. The people who make their living off the hopes, fears, and desperation of people who will do anything to lose weight makes me sick. And it’s not just on the Internet. All those diet “aids” on sale in the grocery and drug stores are just as bad.

    …stepping off my soap box…

    • No need to step off on my account. :)

      My old gym even had those ‘fat-burner/melter/slasher’ potions for sale. The GYM! (My current gym is much better. It just has tanning beds. *groan*)

  2. I think one of the things that concerns me about the internet is where it might go from here. There is so much good that has come from having so much information at our fingertips for ALL aspects of life not just our weight loss stories, but sadly, I suspect there will continue to be wave after wave of people who find ways to use it for less than stellar purposes. Probably faster than the experts can keep up with ways to stop them. But I a sure am grateful for the internet – without it, I wouldn’t have a good friend in West TN named Cammy.

    • I wouldn’t trade the friendships I’ve found via the internet for anything! And given our travel schedules these days, it’s a good thing we do have the internet to keep up with one another. :)

  3. I remember back in the days before the internet, having to look up calorie counts in a paperback book. Horrific, I know! 😉

    Yes, the internet does give us quick access to some great tools, but it’s scary how much you have to weed through the crap – and some days, I’m just not up to dealing with all of that, you know?

    • I hear you, my sister. I’ve totally given up whole sections of Pinterest rather than wade through the crap.

      (I just got rid of my calorie book a couple of years ago. LOL)

  4. I am with you – I have ignored the health and fitness boards of Pinterest, which I liked at first, but then got too fitspo/thinspo and it was not inspiring. at. all.

  5. I have certainly run into many of the site which are selling things rather than giving sound information as well as sites full of trendy misinformed advice.

    But after spending most of my life being treated as if I was a liar and couldn’t possibly be overweight based on my diet and exercise routines it was so amazing to find others online who were like me and then to have science catch up to the fact that it isn’t all so cookie cutter as we were always told.

    • I know! Writing that post and reading the others has left me feeling sad all week. I keep trying to think of solutions and have to remind myself that this is one of those problems I can’t “fix.” I don’t know if there IS a fix.

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