Emoticons have become a new language, a way to express oneself in today’s digital world. But body image activists are saying no to Facebook’s “fat” and “ugly” emoticons with petitions to get the social media giant to remove these options from it’s list because they believe the phrases promote negative body image.

Rebecca Guzelian of Australia (lead image) is one of a group of women from around the world who have started a Change.org petition with the global organization Endangered Bodies. She explains, “Working as a counselor in the field of eating disorders, I spend A LOT of time talking to people about the way they feel about their bodies. Having these word choices completely normalizes using derogatory descriptive terms in the place of real feelings. How can a person feel ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’? These words describe physical characteristics, NOT feelings.”

From the United States, Catherine Weingarten, has personally struggled with disordered eating. “I know what it’s like to ‘feel’ fat,” Catherine writes on her Change.org petition. “I have spent years of my life consumed with negative thoughts about my body, and far too many days starving myself in an effort to lose weight. I dream that one day the platform will actively encourage body positivity and self-esteem among its users, but for now, all I ask is that Facebook stop endorsing self-destructive thoughts through seemingly harmless emojis.”

Petition organizers believe that these emoticons “promote and support the endless torrent of judgment and pressure to be perfect felt by young people across the world. We do enough comparing as it is, we don’t need a status update to make it even easier to feel bad about ourselves.”

Mizheel Murray

So far the petition has garnered more than 16,000 supporters, but it’s also not without its critics who claim that political correctness has gone overboard and that activists are making too much of an issue out of nothing, and finding offense where it just doesn’t exist.

Facebook has also responded, and defends the emoticons. In a statement to People, they said: “People use Facebook to share their feelings with friends and support each other. One option we give people to express themselves is to add a feeling to their posts. You can choose from over 100 feelings we offer based on people’s input or create your own.” Additionally, on the company’s Help Center page they have included links to eating disorder resources. But, organizers don’t think that’s enough.

Campaign supporters can view the regional petitions here… USA, Australia, UK & Ireland, Mexico, Columbia.

If you think policing emoticons has gone too far, we’d love to hear from you, please share your comments below.

UPDATE: Facebook has removed the “fat” emoticon:

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If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, contact the National Eating Disorders Association here.