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To All my Spark Friends: Please Read!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Dear Spark Friends:
I am veering off my usual health and weight loss topics to bring a concern I have to my table of friends --

I am co-leader of my hometown's team and as such try to read as many blogs as I can from fellow team members to stay in touch. The other day I read an entry from a teacher who wrote about a particular student of hers who had a difficult parent and the gist of her blog was about her resentment over students who are on free and reduced lunches and other entitlement programs.
I am quite certain that this woman was probably venting out of frustration and I left a comment expressing a little of my own opinion. After thinking about it later, though, I regretted leaving it.
I want to make it clear that I didn't regret my opinion one bit, but that I let myself get emotionally sucked into a subject that has nothing to do with motivating and inspiring health and fitness.
So I went back and read over comments that other sparkers had left on her blog and was shocked at the vehemence of some peoples opinions. One particular woman's comment in support of the teacher's feelings seemed especially harsh so I clicked on her page and read the only two blogs she had written at the time.
I was so saddened and disappointed at the judgemental, political extremeness, and almost hateful nature of her blogs!

It isn't the fact that my political leanings differ from hers. I am not an extremist by any means to the right or the left, and I certainly respect the concept of freedom of expression.
However, one of my favorite quotes is:
"Freedom of expression is NOT yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater"
(I am sorry that the author of that quote escapes me for the moment.)

She is entitled to say what she feels like on her own page.

What REALLY bothers me is that when we express ourselves in a judgemental, hateful, vehement manner about any segments of population, we risk alienating people. Now I entirely get the drift that she could care less whether the folks she has chosen to spew her venomous diatribe at feel alienated or not.


I firmly believe that this isn't what Spark People is all about. I am very concerned that a newcomer to SP will stumble across her politically driven blog in seek of weight loss motivation and be completely turned off by the whole website.
For all intents and purposes, Spark People is about motivating, inspiring, encouraging others in the WEIGHT LOSS AND FITNESS EFFORTS.
I have no problem with people blogging about personal issues that are emotionally challenging to them. Our blogs shouldn't be restricted to JUST weight loss and health issues, especially when they ultimately impact our state of health mentally or physically, but I definitely feel they should be presented in a non-judgemental, non-hate mongering manner if they bring in other peoples.

Maybe it's because I am NOT a judgemental person by nature. I read my Bible faithfully, and you know what? I haven't found my name mentioned in it anywhere as an appointed judge. In fact, our good Lord is pretty specific that HE alone has that privilege.

I chose a profession where I get to help all walks of life -- every race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, and gender. The workings of our bodies really is the great equalizer. We have more in common with everybody else than not when it comes down to it.

I like to think of myself as a kind and gentle and tolerant soul in my "old age". Lol!

While I am by no means wishy-washy or timid in my political leanings, I simply don't feel like Spark People is the venue to express them. There ARE websites out there where you can share all your opinions with like minded folk. Some are monitored by the FBI, I'm sure :)

So when I read her blogs, did I click the little icon to report an inappropriate blog? No. She wasn't profane, sexual, racist, anti-semantic. or anything like that. She was political. She was judgemental and disparaging about a segment of society that through the grace of God I am not in.

So I am coming to MY friends here on SP and asking that you please not encourage these kinds of public blogs by commenting either in agreement or disagreement. By simply commenting, we are acknowledging them and giving them fuel to either continue with them out of our encouragement, or continue them out of vengeance over our dissenting opinion.

Let politics be politics on MSNBC or FOX News. Or on any of the myriad of websites out there dedicated to such.

Let Spark People be Spark People...


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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • MRSZIPPY1001
    Well said, Joanne. As a newcomer and currently reading the Spark book, my thoughts while reading your blog post kept going back to why and how Spark People got started in the first place. Perhaps we all need to be reminded of the "spirit" wherein it was originally created and instituted by its founder, and not detour into other worldy issues that have no place in this venue.
    2679 days ago
    I guess the right thing to do is just walk away. But I remain concerned. I fear had I encountered such negativity toward anyone or anything on SP I would have checked the "inappropriate" box. Now, I don't know what happens when that box is checked. Does it go to SP for evaluation? Can we let Spark People the site decide? I guess I'll just make sure I exit a blog like that quickly, if I happen onto one. I would hate for a new member to encounter such a negative attitude on SP. That defeats the entire purpose of SP. The site should be enlightening and uplifting, and I have found it to be just that 99% of the time. Thanks for the heads up. Something to think about.
    2689 days ago
  • JESSA2
    AMEN SISTER! emoticon
    2689 days ago
  • HANNAH03253
    I've been struggling with this lately. Spark is wonderful because of the positive nature and how everybody is willing to reach out a helping hand.

    However, last week I was reading a forum post about changing in gym locker rooms. The attitude of people kind of upset me and I said so, perhaps a little too harshly. When I got home, meaning to delete my post (perhaps better to keep Spark safe than vent a little myself), the forum post was completely gone.

    I think it's a fine line to walk and we all need to keep an eye on how much we actually say on Spark. Getting more healthy naturally touches other parts of our lives, but there are perhaps better places for such subjects.

    Personally, I think I'll just be avoiding confrontation on Spark - it's just not worth it and there are so many other great things on this site.
    2703 days ago
    Makes me wonder if the content of my blogs are out of line. I try to share my personal growth experiences since Spark does such a great job with all the fitness lifestyl info. Food for thought. Thank you.
    2703 days ago
  • BIGDAD1211
    WOW! I just saw this. I agree with you 100%! On your own page, you have the right to say what you want, but you should not force your views on others who may not agree with you.
    Thank you so much for this post as I too have seen this happen here at SP. I pray that our new members will not let comments like that affect their stay here at SP!
    In Jesus Name
    2703 days ago
    So true!! Thanks for blogging about this topic. Hopefully, the offenders will take note.
    2709 days ago
    I agree with your comments .
    2713 days ago
    Great blog! I agree completely. emoticon emoticon
    2716 days ago
    I agree with you and try to keep my fingers to myself whenever tempted to respond to something I disagree with. Thank you for taking the time to respond in an acceptable way. Blessings, Ann
    2718 days ago
    2718 days ago
    I agree with your point about just walking away from such comments. I always think about the adage - if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. That doesn't mean we are to let ourselves be berated, or that we aren't supposed to stand up for what we believe. But there's an appropriate time and place for everything.

    Good blog - and the one before it on self-examination as well!

    Blessings today,
    2719 days ago
    It is amazing how ignorant and uncompassionate us humans can be,but that isn't what this site is about.It saddens me that a people on SP would make those kind of prejudice comments in the first place. This is not the place. I thought teachers had to be politically correct and careful what they say,not a good example of an educator. I am having a hard time with this.I think we all outta pray for this person and let God handle the rest. I am gonna say that some children alot would go hungry if it wasn't for these wonderful programs,not all are taking advantage of these programs,they are more needed now then ever before. I have noticed myself becoming a kinder,gentler and alot more tollerant and just alot more positive,since I started SP.Thankyou and God Bless. emoticon emoticon Diana
    2719 days ago
    I agree. This is not the venue for political discussions. SparkPeople is supposed to be an uplifting and motivational site, not a soapbox for political views.
    2719 days ago
    I don't know who wrote that blog, and I don't want to know. It saddens me when teachers degrade students or programs that help students. The children are who we are there for.

    I am also saddened by the political climate and the vindictiveness and narrow-mindedness that is so prevalent right now.

    Thank you for this blog.

    2719 days ago
    Thank you for discussing basically a touchy subject. My DH has an old "chum" from college who has taken it upon himself to bring up "political" subjects and sends them out to all of his old, and current buddies via email. Well, it got rather insulting and finally, FINALLY, a number of his "buddies" asked to be removed from the long list of email addresses. Those people did express their disappointment of the direction the "discussion" had taken and further said they wanted NO PART of such negative comments. My DH has yet to take action; I wish he would. My hunch is his ol' chum will ultimately do something very negative again. I do not care for us to be in any sort of contact with him. Best wishes, Rusty. emoticon
    2719 days ago
  • TK2009NOW
    As with any public forum, there will always be polarizing people. Since SP is free, there's more of an opportunity for people to post whatever they wish.

    And that's difficult.

    I've found that whenever I stumble upon a blog or thread post that is totally derailing from the purpose of the site and/or the topic of the thread, I just ignore it. I know what my purpose is for being on SP, or Facebook, or any of the other public sites, and try to stay on focus.
    2721 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I especially like the point you made about reading your Bible and your name not being in it as a judge. I happen to feel the same way. We are not on this earth to judge others but perhaps to make others lives better. We all are different and have our own trials and tribulations to deal with and I personally have tried very hard throughout my life to keep that in mind when dealing with anyone.

    I actually feel sorry for this person. This person is missing the beauty of each person's individuality. Each person had something to offer and to not be open to that is missing out on what life has to offer.

    I am also saddened that this person is a teacher of children. I strived to raise my children to not be judgemental for any reason. I know there are people that are judgemental, because I have viewed their biases and seen the results. The saddest part is this teacher is in our school system spreading the poison that is stereotyping and thinking less of the children because of their situation. It actually brings tears to my eyes that this one person could and does influence others in a negative way. As the blog responses obviously pointed out.

    I better stop now because I am ranting. However, I do want to thank you for submitting this blog as inappropriate!
    2721 days ago
    Terrific blog! I have found the same things - only some that are heathly hatefully blog about those who aren't. I find myself wondering if they ever knew what it was like to be overweight. I like your saying about not seeing your name in the bible as a judge...if only more people realized this!
    2721 days ago
    I absolutely agree with you. I love Sparkpeople because everyone so far has been extremely kind and supportive to me. It is a safe and warm place. I do blog about things that aren't directly related to my diet/fitness. They are things that are bothering me in one way or another, and they affect my general well-being. The support I gets helps me to feel less alone, and generally better about myself- which has the knock on effect of helping me to stay motivated. Sometimes other people identify with the things I go through, and hopefully that helps them too. For me, my mind and body are very closely related!!!
    If I was blatently criticised or publically slammed down for being who I am, it would hurt, and I would be very sad to lose the wonderful feeling of belonging and the positive energy that Sparkpeople gives me.
    I am here to care for myself- and hopefully to give something to other people along the way.
    2722 days ago
    I agree w/you. I blog about my frustration because its that stuff that causes me to overeat or eat to deal w/it. So maybe that is what others do sometimes :-) I agree, Spark is great and I am glad that there are so many people like you in the world. Have a great Tuesday!
    2723 days ago
    Couldn't agree more. Let's spread love and support here.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2724 days ago
    It is such a sad thing to see the politics of division and animosity creeping into our Spark community!

    Toward that end I've chosen a path very similar to your own Joanne. There seems to be such a scary "us vs. them" mentality in today's politics when, hey folks, guess what? We're all in this boat together!

    ESPECIALLY when it comes to improving our health and wellness!

    2725 days ago
    I totally agree. Thanks for the reminder. I think most Spark People do avoid the political and try to be upbeat and motivating. (Except on the political team message boards, and I think those are kind of fun.) If I run across a blog posting I don't agree with, I usually just move on to something else. Commenting to disagree seems impolite somehow, and adding to someone else's rant isn't much fun.
    2725 days ago
    Thank You for being a leader and speaking up on this topic! People ARE here to be motivated on health and weight loss issues. There are just too many toes out there to be stepped on when you publicly single out an entire group of people in a hateful manner the way she did. It's not the SP spirit and you are right, there are many other sights were you can rant your ignorance if you choose.

    I spark mailed her privately, stewed on it for one day, and let it go. If she wants to waist energy feeling bitter, there is no since in going down that path with her. It was hurtful the way it stirred up a bunch of other members to jump on the hate wagon with her.

    Oh well! You go girl! emoticon
    2725 days ago
    Amen. I do it more or less well at times, but I try to remember that everything I post on the internet becomes my Public Face in the Whole World. If I get all uppity about something, I try to have a darned good reason.

    The idea that you are not free to falsely shout "Fire" in a theater was expressed by Oliver Wendall Holmes in a Supreme Court ruling.
    2725 days ago
    Excellent...and as is typical from you, well written!!! SparkPeople, to me, represents the good in all of us to be nurturing and supportive in this common goal to better health. Let's keep it a safe haven of acceptance.

    2725 days ago
    I totally agree!!

    That is one of the reasons why my SparkPage is private. I watch what someone has been saying on their blogs before I invite them to be a friend so that I feel confident that I won't find objectionable comments on my blogs or on my page; also that I can make my blogs saying what I want to say without worrying about people misinterpreting what I say.
    I personally haven't had any issues with SparkPeople pages, but I have had a family member have problems on another site.

    2725 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/4/2010 4:19:29 PM
    Luckily I haven't run across any of those type of blogs. Sadly I find that there is a lot of hate in this world, if someone doesn't agree with you...shoot them...scream at them and so on. The biggest hate topic is religion, culture, race and different belief system.

    We seem to have lost our tolerance for others and our good sense. It really makes me sad and actually uncomfortable.

    It doesn't surprise me that we have those blogs on a "free site"....glad you reported it because you are right, it doesn't have any business being on here.

    2725 days ago
    I think I will be more inclined to click the report button now that i've read this. I was following a thread one night and I think if people had been present they would have come to blows, it was discouraging. If I am expressing personal things I try to send it in a spark mail not leave it open to public scrutiny, but thanks for wake-up call as well.
    2726 days ago
    You are so right, we are here to encouraged and inspired. Thank god that I have not come across any negative individuals, especially if I am having a bad day.
    2726 days ago
    I understand what you are saying. There's a lot of things I've noticed lately about SP that is making me lean toward leaving. I tend to keep my opinions to myself, except for my recent rampage against SP advertising drugs. We've discussed that. Honestly, I just don't feel it's the same site I originally came to. As far as that person you're writing about (and I have no idea who that is), I just think there's a segment of the population that's had it with working hard while others get a chronic free ride. I see that more and more. But I agree, keep those opinions off SP.
    2726 days ago
    Well said. -Marsha
    2726 days ago
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