Two friends of mine had an altercation on their Facebook page today. It started with someone posting a story about his wife’s weight loss. He was told politely that this page was diet-talk free and that the page owner understood if he wanted to unfriend. Then the original poster and his wife went what I can only describe as batshit – freaking out and making absolutely horrible, baseless accusations.
I see this all the time. Groups that have a “no diet talk” policy are accused of censorship and exclusion. People insist that they should be able to talk about dieting everywhere because their story is just as valid as anyone else’s. I get reader comments asking how to deal with people who are being disrespectful to them on their own Facebook page. On this blog people whose comments I choose not to approve because they are pro-weightloss claim everything from offense – how dare I ignore them? – to insisting that their right to free speech includes me being required to approve any type of nonsense that someone types in the comment box.
I think that it is absolutely ok to have exclusive spaces. The fact that every story is not welcome on every space says nothing about the validity of the storyteller. It’s ok to have a space that does not allow diet talk – that does not suggest that dieters’ stories are any less valid, just that they are not welcome in this place. Similarly, if people create a space exclusively for low-carb dieters I don’t think it’s in any way ok for me to insist that I should be allowed to post about why I don’t choose low-carb dieting. I do not know what makes people think that they are the specialist special and so their story should be welcome anywhere, but I think it’s highly misguided.
I suggest the following:
Your Facebook page is yours – you are the complete boss of its underpants. You are not required to let anyone post anything on your page. You can make it an anything-you-want-free-zone and that is ok.
It is ok to have groups with rules that allow the group members to feel safe. That includes groups that do not allow diet talk.
I think complaints against diet-talk free spaces are particularly ridiculous considering how pro-diet talk most of the world is. There are a zillion places to go and talk about being on a diet. It seems to me that people who feel the need to disrespect a diet-talk free space probably have an agenda or some issues to work out. Maybe they are part of the vast majority of people for whom dieting doesn’t work but, frustrated and unwilling to opt out, they are angry at those of us who have. I know that when I refuse to post people’s pro-weightloss comments they often escalate to all-caps rage, name calling, etc. really fast. Or maybe they are the kind of person who feels like the fact that other people make different decisions than they do is somehow an affront to their decisions, whether we actually care about their choices or not.
While it’s perhaps interesting to speculate, in the end I don’t think it really matters. Our spaces our rules. Don’t like it? Please feel very free to go somewhere that is else.
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