A dark side of health bloggers

A dark side of health bloggers {PilotingPaperAirplanes.com}

My bubble of “healthy-living bloggers are such a supportive and positive community” was just popped.

As happens so often on the internet, I was caught in a rabbit trail that led to me to Get Off My Internets, a forum site dedicated to venting and skewering bloggers. I then spent more time than I want to admit reading through forum pages of some big healthy living and running blogs.

I am ashamed.

I only scanned the forums for blogs I know. Many of them are long gone from my personal reader for various reasons. I even agreed with a lot of what I read. Or at least ended up agreeing. The power of suggestion went something like this: Oh yeah, I guess that is annoying. It always bothered me when {blank} wrote {blank}. Now I know why. Even worse: I understand how {blank} could be irritating, but I never noticed. Except now I will. Every time.

It seems I have avoided a dark corner of the internet until now. I understand discussion and disagreement on the internet as a form of social learning and development. Previously private conversations now play out on a grand scale online. Hello comment sections! Many times I learn more scanning through comments than I do from an article itself, despite some horrible things people say behind online anonymity.

Some of the forums hit on important questions, like “do healthy-living blogs encourage disordered eating and workout obsessions”? Um, yes. I would love to have that conversation!

Do fitness blogs encourage workout obsessions? {PilotingPaperAirplanes.com} Do health blogs encourage disordered eating? {PilotingPaperAirplanes.com}

Other comments raised concerns about whether specific bloggers are actually healthy. This isn’t really anyone’s business besides them and their doctor… but I’m willing to give a pass here with reservations. When you read a blog for a long time, you pick up trends. When a blogger starts to take a seemingly negative turn, regular readers notice. Is this worth discussion in a public forum? I’m not convinced, but it does raise some concern that a blogger with a lot of social influence could hurt readers in the process.

What made me hang my head in shame was the general bitching:

• “I hate how she writes with. so. many. periods.”
• “All she does is whine and complain, I can’t stand it.”
• “I’m so tired of reading how she’s the perfect Christian SAHM who gets to run every day.”

And the kickers that get a rise out of me so fast:

• “I never thought she had a great body anyway.”
• “She thinks she’s way better looking than she is.”
• “Why does she always wear pants like that? They make her legs look awful!”

EXCUSE ME??

….

There are no words. I’ve been staring that this screen for several minutes and still don’t have anything short of a full-out scream fest in response.

The worst part is these forums are often started and maintained by other health bloggers. People who [should] sure as hell know better. Who [should] understand how much those words really matter. It is pretty evident in the forums that many of the bloggers themselves keep tabs. So not only are we bashing and shaming these people, we’re doing it knowing they are likely to read it. And we’re announcing that its OK to belittle someone with such a lack of basic respect.

The solution is stunningly simple: you don’t like a blog anymore, don’t read it. The opinions you can keep to yourself – or at least behind the privacy of email with friends, not a public forum. Good gracious. If you can’t say something nice…?

My happy online corner of beautiful people accomplishing extraordinary things full of encouragement and support just had a dark shadow creep in. Pardon me while I go watch these adorable goats playing. And some JLaw funny moments. Maybe some Benedict Cumberbatch clips. I need to find a happy place again.

Your turn:
Are these forums valuable?
What serious conversations should fitness/health/lifestyle bloggers be having?
Am I simply overreacting?


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37 Responses to A dark side of health bloggers

  1. jennifer says:

    I’ll admit when I first found that site it was like some dirty celeb gossip, which I have about zero interest in the real world about. But seeing people write about bloggers I have read, it was interesting.
    But then it got to the point like yes, why bother spending the time bashing and whining when you can just unfollow and move forward?

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      Oh yeah, it’s absolutely easy to get sucked in. I couldn’t help but be curious! Until I saw enough nasty things to get really bothered by it as a whole.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Wow! I had no idea. It is not easy to put yourself out there online, and I have great respect for anyone who has the courage to do so. I think there are a lot of healthy living bloggers, like me, who are in the process of their own health and fitness journey. While they aren’t the ideal body image yet, they sure as heck are trying. It’s sad that people can be so mean. I’m tempted to go look at it, but I think I’ll stay away.

    I’m glad I found your blog though. I’m excited to be a new follower. 🙂
    Kimberly recently posted…Would you shave your head for childhood cancer?My Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      Awe, thank you and welcome! P.S. Your SIL is one amazing woman!

      I say stay away from the forums. It’s a time suck and so not worth it. You’re totally right; we are all on our own journeys and none of us are perfect – even the ones who may look like they are to readers!

  3. Wow, just wow… never saw that site, but really, like you, I don’t understand people sometimes. Of course, we’re all going to think what we’re going to think, but what happened to common courtesy and kindness? Like you said, if they don’t like it, they shouldn’t bother to take the time to read it, much less to then vent about it. If it wasn’t so hurtful and mean, it would *almost* be funny how ppl spend so much time and energy to complain or belittle others – – go live your life, don’t waste time criticizing others’ lives! Sorry your happy space was invaded, but glad you are above that smuck.

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      When I’m annoyed with something/someone, I have time for a few “vent to myself” moments, maybe text a friend if it’s particularly bad, a few yoga breathes to calm down… and then move on. You’re right, life’s too short!

  4. It is so easy to get sucked into GOMI! I spent way too long looking around the first time I discovered it. It’s like gossip and sometimes you just can’t turn away. I don’t have a problem with some of the stuff that is said, but like you mentioned, when it turns into just mean girl criticizm I don’t get it. It’s so hard to put ourselves out there and sites like that make it even harder. I’m so glad I found your blog! I love it! 🙂
    Michelle @Baby Blues to Running Shoes recently posted…My Running PlaylistMy Profile

  5. I too went over to this site the other day out of curiosity from what I had been hearing. Personally I think people have way to much time on their hands to be writing this crap. In the grand scheme of life…who cares? There are so many more important things to be using our time constructively than to be bashing other bloggers. Once a bully, always a bully I think. I understand that when a blogger puts their business on their page it is open for all to see, but the things that people were writing are just plain mean. And lets be honest, most are women. I still don’t know why women have to tear each other down instead of bringing each other up. Are people’s self confidence really that low that they need to tear others down to make them feel good about themselves. To me that makes for a pretty empty life. I won’t visit that page again, it purely encourages the behavior.
    Sue @This Mama Runs For Cupcakes recently posted…Mama Cupcake’s 12 Days of Super Swag Giveaway–Day 3 Handana GiftcardMy Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      True, most are women, that I could tell anyway, and it’s frustrating to see the behavior play into stereotypes of cattiness and competitiveness. SO completely different from my experience with everyone I follow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll be chuckling reading a post and say to Jon “oh, I love my bloggers, these people are awesome!”

  6. Kim says:

    I guess I will just stay in my sand-hole because I have never even heard about that site – sounds brutal!!
    Kim recently posted…Dallas Buyers Club and The Biggest LoserMy Profile

  7. I actually got sucked into those forums yesterday, too…. I’m guessing by a post or posts that we both read. It is very sad…I try not to judge others. There have been times when I have thought that maybe a certain writer might not be “healthy,” but it’s not my place to say it to them or name them when I am discussing it… like now. I have also recently been “annoyed” by some of what I have been reading on other blogs…so I’ve unsubscribed. These bloggers don’t care if I don’t read their blogs! They don’t need me to validate their existence! They are human beings and worth so much more than what they write on the page…so we shouldn’t judge them. Until we are all perfect human beings, we should not judge anyone. And it’s important to remember…. as readers, we are only seeing a facade of the blogger. For the mot part, I’m sure a lot of us DO NOT know the blogger in real life and do not know them any deeper than what we read on the screen.
    Rachel @ Undercover Diva: A Sitcom recently posted…Taper CraziesMy Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      So true. As much as we all try to be honest and represent our “true selves” on blogs, there is obviously no way to really know someone through words on a screen. And yet it’s ok to judge only based on those words? I don’t get it. There are plenty of bloggers that I liked for a while, but my tastes simply change and there are so MANY of us health bloggers that I’m not at a loss to find people I can better connect with. Just as I’m sure there are lots of people who wouldn’t be interested in sticking with me here.

    • Jacalyn says:

      It’s a plseuare to find someone who can think so clearly

    • http://www./ says:

      AKAIK you’ve got the answer in one!

    • AnonymousOctober 24, 2011Cool!Ye, well as mentioned in this post and the next (more rantish post) I actually started from some N-Body webGL code that I found on the net (cant find the link now). Im sure that would be a good starting point for you.

    • IMHO you’ve got the right answer!

    • Thom, sorry to dash your experts theory, but they’re going faster than you think and the car racer was familiar with the GT-R, which most or all auto-journalists will state doesn’t actually require an expert to go fast.However, the bike racer had never ridden the RSV4 Factory or an Aprilia at all, nor had he ever been to that track until the morning of the shoot.

  8. Well… as they say, haters gonna hate… I have no interest in those sites. I am not popular enough to be there… phew. There are bloggers that I definitely think promote unhealthy stuff under the guise of healthy living. You know what I do about those? I. stop. clicking.
    Erica @ erica finds recently posted…Winter Olympics: Trying to Get Into The SpiritMy Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      Haha, me too – I think I’m way too small to be interesting gossip fodder! And sure, there are plenty that I suspect aren’t all that balanced or healthy (gracious, we all understand the fitness pressures!) or who have priorities that don’t mesh well with mine. If isn’t motivating me, making me smile or adding something useful to my life, I have had zero problem removing them from my reader.

  9. Martha says:

    I have (and hate to) admit, when I first found GOMI I got sucked in. I found it funny, I found it interesting, I never posted but I was reading it every day for a good week.
    Then I realized I was getting sucked into this “groupthink” where everyone just tears people they don’t even know to shreds. The fact that I was indulging in this way of thinking, even getting joy from it… I started feeling like an awful person.
    What it all comes down to is exactly what you pointed out – there needs to be open discussions about the negative implications some fitness blogs put out there. The disordered eating patterns, the exercise addiction, the negligence of important life experiences in favor of being one of the fitness obsessed elite.
    But ripping on someone’s outfit choice, face, religion? That takes petty to a whole different level.
    I too stopped the “hate reading,” realizing it wasn’t making me a better or happier person. If I don’t like it, I don’t waste my time on it.
    Thank you for writing this post… Someone really needed to!
    Martha recently posted…For Now, I’m just going to get my Erin Stern Elite on.My Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      Exactly! At first I was drawn in too. “Group think” is the perfect way to put it. I certainly felt guilty of the gossip indulgence.

  10. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I first learned about this last year from some friends. I was actually stunned that it even exists. The great thing about the running and fitness community is that it is so supportive. So many runners and triathletes I’ve met online have had such a positive impact on me … and there are so many wonderful people out there. Of course I don’t always agree with everyone’s thoughts or styles, but I learn from everyone — both about how I want to be and don’t want to be. Don’t let the handful of people that want to tear others down get to you. I looked at it once and never went back. If you are true to who you are that is all that matters for anyone. The great thing about the fact that we are all different is that we can have interesting dialogue and conversations and consider things from different perspectives. The truth is, bloggers are human. We fall off the wagon just like everyone else from time to time. We make mistakes. But the key is how we handle them. I try to be honest with my readers, but leave the negativity at the door. I completely agree with you that if people don’t like a certain writer or blogger, they should simply stop reading the. And that is perfectly ok. But tearing people down tears everyone down. This is about helping people live healthier and happier … and that takes support from everyone. xoxo
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted…Slow Cooker Fiesta Shredded Chicken over Pineapple Brown RiceMy Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      I feel the same way – I LOVE the running/fitness online community! I’ve learned a ton from other bloggers. The harsher comments really took me by surprise because I hadn’t seen anything like that thus far. Oh well, moving on. 🙂

  11. I like your comment: “The solution is stunningly simple: you don’t like a blog anymore, don’t read it.” I don’t know what it is about the human condition that obsesses people to talk about one another, but it’s there – fair or not. I have not hesitated to remove someone from my blog reader if I hate typos, grammar or just no longer interested in what they have to say and I certainly don’t take offense if someone removes me. I only want to be around people and things that WANT me around. I visited the site when I saw a recent post linked to it and had my fill. I won’t go back to give it page clicks. Now the contecxt of what they had to say I guess is a whole other story, but snarking for the sake of snarking doesn’t change anything.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run! recently posted…Every Day I’m Shufflin’: Giveaway Wednesday!My Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      I’ve gotten myself in trouble more than once because I wanted to “vent” to a friend but really it was just plain gossip. I don’t actually need to talk about someone else and it certainly doesn’t help anyone involved. That instinct is perhaps exaggerated online where it’s a bit more anonymous and harder to understand intent. One simple rule I like is if you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, don’t put it in writing!

  12. This post is amazing. I’ll admit I get hooked on reading GOMI and a lot of what they say is true, but a lot of it is also mean, which I do have a problem with. I’ve been on GOMI before (luckily nowhere near as bad as the “big” bloggers) and it’s hurtful to read what people have to say. They don’t always know the full story, nor do they care, and oftentimes they look for the most ridiculous things to snark on. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with the site because I think it can actually help ground people who get sucked into the HLB world (myself included) who think a lot of the HLB behaviors are normal. But I wish people would be a little more concerned with feelings, because a lot of what is said is completely unnecessary.
    Sarah @pickyrunner recently posted…Lessons from the InjuredMy Profile

    • LarissaDaltonS says:

      Eek, I don’t think I ever want to know if I manage to make it onto a GOMI forum. I want to be open to constructive criticism, though, so maybe it wouldn’t be too terrible. You’re right, the site can definitely lead to healthy and necessary conversations and I appreciate that aspect of it. Just tone down the snark!

  13. Jodi Stuber says:

    great post. people need to learn that not only is there an overload of info/opinions online… but there is also a way to avoid it all.. DON’T read it. you are so right, if you don’t like it, don’t look at it. its almost like saying oh i hate this author, but i am going to keep buying and reading their books and complain.
    oh my!!
    Jodi Stuber recently posted…I like to eat, yo!My Profile

  14. Lisa says:

    It’s usually best to check with a health expert which is what some of these bloggers forget to tell their readers. A real life health expert gives better advice.

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