Photo by Summer Scott/Facebook
“Seen People of Wal Mart? The Iowa State Fair surely has that place beat for people watching! Post your pics of awesome Fair people here!”
That’s how the anonymous administrator of the People of The Iowa State Fair Facebook page describes the cyber destination that currently boasts about 70,000 likes. In actuality, this virtual community is populated by lots of unflattering candid shots of fairgoers with degrading, sarcastic, and pointedly harsh comments attached. Not so “awesome.”
Several visitors who find the site offensive have asked the administrator to take down (or at least take responsibility for) the page’s hurtful content, but to no avail. The administrator posted this response on Tuesday: “People watching is one of the great traditions of the Iowa State Fair, and this site was made to allow people worldwide to enjoy that… The internet is full of offensive and disgusting things, and if I stumble across a website that offends me, I re-direct my browser elsewhere immediately and do not go back.”
The page launched last August during the 2013 state fair. This year’s fair, which kicked off last week and runs through Sunday, is expected to attract more than 1 million people.
The administrator of the page might not actually post any of the content, but as a curator, he or she gives Facebook users (who aren’t anonymous) a place to create posts that are blatantly mean. Although many benign photos have been posted to the page (especially in the wake of the recent media coverage), the pictures in question objectify people for their weight, race, and sexual orientation and mocks other aspects of their appearances. From comparing a man to a large pumpkin, to zeroing in on one woman’s cellulite, the posts have recently been focused on fat-shaming. With comments such as “she looks like a cloud,” “Eww Omg,” “Meet “Jenny Craig,” and “nasty” to describe the hundreds of photos featured.
Some expressed their disgust with the entire concept by posting their comments on The People of the Iowa State Fair page itself. Mejrima Dzafic wrote, “This is bullying coming from grown adults. Idk why people feel the need to write mean stuff about people they dont even know.” Another commenter, Tina Winslow, agrees: “I think its rude/mean to make fun of people at the fair!!! You all should be ashamed of yourselves!”
“It’s kind of a hurtful Facebook page,” Iowa State Fair spokesperson Lori Chappell told local news station WHO TV. She noted that fair administrators filed a complaint with Facebook and asked that the page be taken down. Facebook responded that it was unable to perform such an action as the page doesn’t violate any “community standards.”
While the page doesn’t break any written rules with the social network, fat-shaming is an offense that should be taken seriously. According to a study published in the PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE, when overweight and obese people are made to feel ashamed of their bodies, it doesn’t inspire the individuals to lose weight, but rather the victims are more likely to either become or stay obese.
In addition to the anonymous administrator coming to the page’s defense, the site does have additional supporters. “This page is a reminder to me of the good, fun days of growing up. I pray that the good people pictured here can continue the tradition of being themselves … Thank you to everyone that is showcased here making Iowa what it is today,” Ben Paulsen writes. Others find it to be funny, awesome, and a true display of how great the fair is.
Overall, the general consensus is that this is bullying at an adult level. Guess it’s up to us — the social media users of the world — to create our own standards, where mocking fellow citizens enjoying a day out at the fair simply isn’t acceptable.