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The Dancing Man Is an Example of Both Fat Shaming and the Internet's Glory

A nasty viral photo prompted an unlikely invitation, and serves as a reminder of the Internet's power for good—and evil.
(Photo: CassandraRules/Twitter)

(Photo: CassandraRules/Twitter)

Sometimes the Internet is the worst. Case in point: When a 4chan user posted a picture of a heavyset man trying to get his groove on and shamed him for it. But sometimes the Internet uses its power for good instead of evil, like when nearly 2,000 lovely ladies decided to throw said man a massive dance party.

After the image went viral on anonymous message board 4chan, Twitter user Cassandra Fairbanks put out an open call on social media, urging the mocked man to join the “dance party” she organized in his honor.

The invitation prompted scores of hashtags and discussions, all based around an effort to make this guy’s day a little bit better. And, awesomely, it worked:

It’s a heartwarming story and, hopefully, it sheds light on a larger issue. The overweight and obese face significant discrimination. A 2014 study from University College London that followed nearly 3,000 adults found that overweight individuals experienced teasing, harassment, or felt that they received poorer service everywhere from restaurants to doctors offices for their size. It’s a process informally known as “fat shaming,” and it does nothing to improve the lives of the shamed. In fact, weight discrimination can have a greater impact on an individual's physical health than racism or sexism, by increasing a person's risk of obesity, according to a 2013 study from researchers at Florida State University College of Medicine.

In spite of these dangers, social networks are still rife with cruelty. Nearly 90 percent of teens and 70 percent of adult users of platforms like Facebook and Twitter say they have witnessed their peers “being mean and cruel to others on social network sites,” according to a survey from the Pew Research Center.

The sad state of online cruelty makes Fairbanks’ actions all the more commendable. “Big-hearted people far outweigh the small minded, every day of the week,” the dancing man, named Sean, told Fairbanks for an article in the Free Thought Project.

A GoFundMe page for the dance party has received nearly $6,000 in donations in the first three hours. (And the page promises that any proceeds not used for the party will be donated to anti-bullying campaigns.)

We learned two important things today: The Internet can be a cause for good just as easily as it can for evil—and 4chan users are the worst.