Friday, January 25, 2013
The internet is a powerful tool, and so integrated into my life and the lives of my peers, that I sometimes forget that fact.
Last night, I was thinking about the "Choose to Lose" challenge here at work, and I thought, "I should look for some inspirational pictures and quotes for the ladies on my team!" The plan is to send out an email every morning with the day's goals (drink 8 glasses of water! Eat those veggies! 20 fitness minutes!) and a little laugh and a little inspiration.
I should have stayed on Spark for that stuff.
I turned my eye to the wide, wide world and did a regular ol' Google search. "Fitness Inspiration," I asked. Somewhere in the results came two words: "fitsporation" and "thinsporation."
If you know me, you know that I love puns and words and word play. I saw those and thought, "CUTE!" And away I went, clicking haplessly into a world I didn't really know existed.
The world of pro-anorexia.
I guess I knew it was there. I mean, I've been in the ol' e-neighborhood for 10+ years. I know the kind of stuff that people get up to on the internet. I was around when Yahoo! pulled the plug on all the pro-ana forums and chat rooms. I was around for all that stuff, and even put filters in our home computer's parent controls to block any pro-ana website when my little sister began to go down that dark and terrible path.
I guess I knew it was there.
I didn't know it was so widespread.
There are millions of children, of little girls and boys, who are posting their starting weights, current weights, and goal weights - just like me! Just like you. I found a little girl that was the same height as me, even! Except they're starting at 150, currently 120, and want to be 110. Children, little children, who have Boot Camp month, just like me! Except their boot camp involves hours of exercise on 0-500 calories a day. Children who value willpower, strength and drive - just like me. Just like you.
Then there are pages, blogs, that stop suddenly. The child just vanishes. The hopeful part of me thinks, "They got help!" The rest of me wonders if there was no help to be had.
And these kids, man - these kids are connected to each other, just like we are. They back each other up, they push each other forward, they connect over miles and miles of cable and air. They're friends. These kids are just like us.
But these kids are killing themselves.
Three hours after getting out of that place, posting a status to Spark, and calling Shaina to talk about dinner - just to hear her talk with normal thoughts and feelings about food - just to remind myself that not all the children who fall down that hole never return - my friend Aaron told me that his own little sister had been hospitalized that morning.
One day, she searched for fitness tips. Just like me. But she searched on Tumblr, and that brought her still-developing mind to the world of Thinsporation... pro-anorexia. She became one of those children on Tumblr, logging her meager 400 calories a day on My Fitness Pal with gusto - proud of her willpower, her visible ribs and jutting hip bones - with a crowd of others behind her, pushing her forward to her ultimate goal.
We cried. He cried because he's afraid for her. I cried because I was spared his pain - I "caught" Shaina and we got her help.
It's frightening, the power of the internet. It connects and magnifies all human experience - from miles and states and countries away, we make friends and common goals, and the feelings we have as a unit are more amplified than anything we could feel on our own. We're connected to the whole host of human knowledge, dark and light and everything in between. We, instantly, have every capability and every support to accomplish anything we need or want to do.
Maybe we shouldn't. I don't know.
Thanks for being here. Thanks for being my friends. Thanks for choosing health, and for reminding me daily to choose health. Watch your kids: hug them and love them and teach them that their bodies are strong machines that need fuel and love and acceptance. Give them control over parts of their life so they don't take control of the one thing they do have. Let them make mistakes. Don't demonize cake. Love them. Teach them to love themselves.
Please keep being here, keep being my friends - keep being a force of good on the internet. I promise to do the same.