Written By: Kelly LaPorte, NCC, LCPC, CADC
An article was brought to my attention by someone in my office so I decided to go on the website and read it myself. I had no clue that what I was about to read was going to lead to a full investigation on my part.
The article is titled, “5 reasons to Date a Girl with an Eating Disorder, “ and if the title isn’t enough to make you cringe the first sentence should make you audibly sigh,
“Nothing screams white-girl problems louder than a good old-fashioned eating disorder.*
*While obesity is, in most cases, also an “eating disorder,” this list doesn’t apply to emotional eaters, food addicts, and fatties with no self control.”
Let me rewind and tell you that this article was circulating Facebook and other social medias. This seems to be a trend in the social media world with topics such as, “19 Pictures that Remind You of Childhood,” “10 Reasons You Should Go On a Diet,” and “5 Reasons You Should Dump Your Boyfriend.” This particular one focusing on eating disorders had made some of the community outraged due to the awful messages it was suggesting.
Reasons such as, “She’s better in bed,” “She’s fragile and vulnerable,” and “Her obsession with her body will improve her overall looks,” make up the bulk of this article with detailed paragraph descriptions of each. It describes reasoning that is outrageous and makes those suffering from an eating disorder seem like they’re having the time of their lives, when really they are fighting deep internal struggles.
I wanted to see what else this website had to offer and I came across another jaw dropper, “5 Reasons that Girls with Tattoos and Piercings are Broken.” I recalled seeing this one on some social media websites and thinking it was just a parody link taking a reader to a funny article, but as I read it I realized I was entirely wrong. The #1 reason girls with tattoos and/or piercings are broken? Because, “They’re sluts.” I was curious how the writer made the correlation between having a tattoo and being a slut and I didn’t have to read much further to find it. For the sake of not being crude I opted to not quote that line in this blog post.
The #5 reason girls with tattoos are broken made me actually put my coffee down, drop my jaw and get angry,
“They’re Mentally Ill.”
As therapists we are constantly fighting against the negative stigma that is placed on the mental health world and statements such as that just fuel them. It dawned on me that while I was fuming with the context of these articles that they didn’t just disrespect the mental health community, they also spoke negatively about women specifically. Are women sluts if they have a tattoo, but men are not? What about men that are struggling with eating disorders?
It turns out it was a common trend on the site. The “About” section explains the mission statement of the blog in which the writers state, “…a blog for heterosexual, masculine men. It’s meant for a small but vocal collection of men in America today who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Women and homosexuals are discouraged from commenting here.” Hmm. Guess I can’t comment! It goes on to list the beliefs of the community and one that struck me the most stated, “A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty. A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.”
Now, I respect everyone’s opinions, even the men who write for the blog on this site, but in today’s society it is hard not to get offended by some of the beliefs our ancestors partook in. In a current generation that embraces equality and the freedom to be yourself it’s shocking to see articles such as these circulating in a positive manner, especially a particular article they have which lists the “rules” of being a wife. Things such as never letting her speak to her family again, men do not help take care of children, not letting her get a job, and never letting her make any decisions are discussed and it makes me sad. Have we not evolved past these ideas?
My therapeutic mind is overpowered by all of the topics brought up that I was not even sure where to go with this blog. Eating disorders, expressing yourself by getting a tattoo, and women’s equality, all of which are powerful topics that can be controversial, but do not necessarily need to be. It’s common knowledge nowadays that if you go on the internet you will most likely run into something you did not want to see. It is upsetting when a client discusses that they were triggered by something they saw on Facebook, and could not control the fact that it was there due to someone else posting the information. This has lead to an entirely new breed of coping skills I have had to work on with my clients: Not clicking the links.
See something negative on a site that will trigger something negative inside of you? Time to stay away. This is something I even learned recently as I came across the previously discussed blog. Can I change their beliefs? Nope. Can I avoid sites such as these? Yep. The more difficult question: Did my curiosity lead me to look more into it which caused negative emotions? You betcha. I should have stayed away. It’s time to discourage some of the link clicking so we do not enable the negative stigmas. Instead, let’s encourage “5 Reasons to Not Click this Link.”
But why do we even feel such a strong urge to click these articles in the first place? Was it with the evolution of Facebook and other social media websites? In any case, I had a strong feeling and theory that when something strikes our curiosity we get a “high” out of exploring the curiosity, which makes an individual constantly wanting to explore. A quick Google search verified my theory; Sites such as Wikipedia, Washington Post, and Dopamine Project stated that there is a burst of dopamine when we feel we are about to be rewarded. I describe dopamine as the “Pleasure Pathway,” something that was taught to me while in graduate school. When we feel we are about to experience something that can be seen as pleasurable we get a spike of a dopamine release solidifying that experience. For more information, I encourage readers to read more on a study that was conducted by Matthias Gruber who studied curiosity; One of his studies is described in the Washington Post article, “Cats Take Notice: Brain Study Uses Trivia to Look at How Curiosity Works.”
Have we developed into a nation where we are, in a very minor way, becoming addicted to clicking these links? Give yourself a challenge this week: Count how many times you were going to click a link out of curiosity. Whether you actually click it or not, just the spike of curiosity is something to be aware of. We could all use some coping skills after reading something your curiosity drove you to, but it could start before that, just don’t click something you feel will trigger negativity in your life!
Kim, M. (2014, October 5). Cats Take Notice: Brain Study Uses Trivia to Look at How Curiosity Works. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/cats-take-notice-brain-study-uses-trivia-to-look-at-how-curiosity-works/2014/10/05/7c9eccfe-4b38-11e4-a046-120a8a855cca_story.html
Lyell, C. (2013, July 1). Dopamine Dialogues: Do Scientists Lack Curiosity and Imagination? Retrieved from http://dopamineproject.org/2013/07/dopamine-dialogues-do-scientists-lack-curiosity-and-imagination/