I don’t know what we did before the internet. I mean, I know that that’s a thing people say, but I really don’t know what we did. Want to know the menu for the highest rated Italian restaurant two cities over? Tough. Interested in the filmography of that guy you saw in that thing? Hard luck. Fancy connecting with an ever-changing pool of like-minded humans? Well, you could try the local youth club…
Basically I am pretty sure that the internet was invented for (and probably by) people like me: slightly shy over-thinkers who are better at writing stuff down than they are at saying it out loud. And that’s probably why I have been addicted to it since the get go.
I was in my early teens when I first remember being aware of the internet, or being aware that the internet was something that I could personally access. Before we got it at home, visits to my friend’s house would consist of me begging her to connect their giant, whirring family PC to dial-up so that we could sit in chaotic chat rooms (ASL?!). God only knows what her parents thought we were doing as, aside from the fact that their phone line was blocked, parents back then didn’t get annual lectures from their children’s schools about the extent to which the web is definitely evil and probably melting our children.
It didn’t take me long to become addicted to forums and I was well into OkCupid before it was cool (is it cool?). I was on MySpace, I joined Facebook not long after it started, and I met my husband on PlentyofFish. I’m the one who explains memes to my 30-something-year-old friends, I barely ever shop in physical buildings anymore, and my browser never has fewer than eight tabs.
All that said, I just don’t get Tumblr. I don’t get it. I joined it recently, and I understand that people share images and text, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just not doing it right. When I click on things, unexpected stuff pops up, and I’m fairly convinced that if and when a post finally gets reblogged by every single Tumblrer (Tumblrite?) then the whole site will just cease and be replaced with simple white text on a black background: You Win, Game Over.
What I do understand about Tumblr, though (aside from the fact that its huge porn element will ensure it probably “wins” the social network battle, a bit like VHS vs. Betamax) is that you can see fat people. Not only fat people but fat Fat Acceptance people, and all sorts of people espousing body positivity. A big part of (at least that area of) Tumblr, it seems, is for people to take selfies of their lovely, fat bodies, either clothed or less so, and put them up for praise, adoration, and encouragement from a willing crowd. These are acts of confidence-building and of self-love that seem to have a profound influence on the viewed and the viewer simultaneously. The content is backed up by affirmation and positivity from both sides. Little pockets of the internet are being created and shared as safe spaces for owning and displaying bodies that have previously been hidden and shunned. Of course, it’s not flawless; trolls can and will pop up everywhere, but, from what I have seen, these selfies seem mainly surrounded by good, at least.
And a strange thing has happened since I joined the site and stocked up my “follow” list on all these body-positive blogs: I am starting to feel differently about my own body. After just a couple of weeks of daily exposure to positive images of women my own size, and to those a little smaller and to those a little bigger, my interaction with the mirror has markedly improved. It’s almost as if — stop the presses — seeing women like me has made me feel better about me! Two weeks. It begs the question, just how much damage has been done by 30 years of almost exclusively seeing women who are smaller than me? When we are so massively unrepresented in the media to which we are subjected, what does it do to our sense of self?
This isn’t a new question, obviously. And it can be — and has been — applied to other groups possibly more profoundly (PoC, LGBT people, disabled/differently-able people and so on), but what struck me was just how quickly my perceptions have changed. Just seeing more fat people has really accelerated my acceptance of my own body. I thoroughly recommend this kind of gentle, positive exposure as another tool in the set toward loving our gorgeous, abundant selves.