Thursday, June 09, 2011

Twitter's dangerous.

Dr. Jenn Berman is a celebrity psychologist.

Prior to her celebrity status, she spent many years working with eating disordered patients and her doctoral thesis was on, "The Effects of an Eight Week Intuitive Eating Program on Eating Disordered Participants", and she reports that eating disorders are still part of her practice on her official biography.

Yesterday she tweeted,

While I know Dr. Berman recognizes many of the complexities of obesity in modern society, the average Joe/Jane doesn't. They don't think about the psychology of eating, socio-economics, co-morbid medical problems, predatory advertising, environmental obesogens, genetics, the cheap costs of calories, food hyperpalatability, lack of proper nutritional education in our schools, etc., etc. To them, societal obesity is a consequence of us spending too much time eating our proverbial, "chocolate sandwiches". They think it's all about laziness and gluttony, and that parents, "just saying no" and willpower would make this all go away. Though certainly not intentionally, Dr. Berman's tweet reinforced that message.

Given Dr. Berman's professional pedigree, I highly doubted that she meant for her tweet to be taken the way I've spun it above, so I contacted her via Twitter where she replied that was certainly not her intention.

That said, I wonder what her eating disordered patients, some of who also likely struggle with obesity, would think of her tweet, given that without a doubt many of them have seen their struggles amplified by health professionals who've callously and ignorantly, attributed their weights to the consequence of simply eating too many "chocolate sandwiches".

So why am I bothering with this post? Well maybe I'm over-reacting, but according to TweetReach, Dr. Berman's tweet reached nearly 200,000 people, and while certainly some may have taken that comment to be innocent, others certainly had it fuel their own ill-informed biases.

Given her profile, I'm guessing Dr. Berman's tweets carry more weight than the average, and here's hoping that she, and all of us who are enamored with 140 character updates, will remember to think about how those 140 characters might be interpreted before we tweet.

[Great image up above from Jayro Design]