039 Regarding “Before and After;” An Open Letter to Facebook

by reeger on October 19, 2014


Dear WLSP Community,
What follows is my open letter to Facebook regarding their refusal to take my money to boost my last episode which featured Jeff Butts. They would not boost the post until I deleted Jeff’s Before and After comparison photos. But I am unwilling to do that. The below letter describes what happened and my position on the issue. Please listen to this episode where I read my letter. Please share Jeff’s episode on your social media links. Please share this episode too.

Dear Facebook,
On 10/12/2014 I posted a link to my Weight Loss Surgery Podcast on Southern Oregon Bariatric Center’s Facebook page. The link was to episode 38, titled “A Change for Life with Jeff Butts.” Because I have a podcast and I am an admin on SOBC Facebook page, I always post a link to my latest episodes.

On 10/13/14, in attempts to increase the exposure of this podcast episode, I requested to “boost” the post by paying you $20.00. I have done this before with other WLS Podcast episodes. I have found this to be a good way to help people learn about the podcast and all the important, free information that is provided there.

The episode in question was my audio (podcast) interview with Jeff Butts. For much of Jeff’s adult life he has struggled with the disease of obesity. At his heaviest, “before,” Mr Butts weighed 643 pounds. Now, he has an “after.” As the journey of his After progressed and his weight significantly reduced, his life and the opportunities he had to Live his Life, expanded exponentially. The podcast interview is an exploration of how Jeff got from his before to his after.

At 9:58pm on 10/13/14 I received the following email from you:
Hi Reeger,
It looks like your ad didn’t meet our guidelines, so it was not approved.
Here’s why we could not approve this ad:
• Your ad wasn’t approved because the image or video thumbnail focuses on an ideal body/physical image and it’s promoting a health product.
Before resubmitting your ad, please visit the Help Center to learn more and see examples that meet our ad guidelines.
If you’ve read the guidelines in the Help Center and think your ad follows the rules and should have been approved, please let us know.
For more information, read our advertising Terms and our Ad Guidelines. These policies help keep Facebook safe and welcoming for everyone. If you think your ad meets these guidelines, please let us know.
Thanks, The Facebook Ads Team

I reviewed your guidelines regarding acceptable and unacceptable posts that may be boosted. In addition to the above statement, you also do not allow “before” and “after” photos. The post I requested to boost has three photos in it: The top photo is Jeff’s after photo. It is a picture of him completing one of the goals on his bucket list: He is sky diving. The bottom two photos are of Jeff before when, for reasons that are obvious in the photos, sky diving was not an option for him as were many other things that many people take for granted every day.
Because I did not agree with your reasons for disallowing my boosted post, I wrote you back and I explained my reasons for disagreeing. I requested you boost the post as is.

At 9:20pm on 10/15/14 you wrote me back. Here is what you said:
Hi Reeger,
Thanks for writing in. I’m here to help.
Your ad was rejected because it violates the image policies of the Ad Guidelines.
Images that you may not use include:
-“Before and after” comparisons
-Images of unexpected results
-Images that show a type of body weight as being perfect or undesirable
To resubmit your ad, edit the image from your ads manager.

Learn more about our policies on health and fitness images:

Facebook Ads TeamFacebook

You were polite and I appreciate that. I hate confrontation. You gave me an out. Basically, remove Jeff’s before and after comparison photos and resubmit my request to pay you to boost my post.

But here’s the rub, if I remove Jeff’s before and after photos that would mean on some level I agree with your position that there is something intrinsically wrong with posting Jeff’s truth. His whole truth. Are his results too unexpected for you? Is his after photo too perfect or his before photo too undesirable? Which is it? Which part of Jeff’s truth are you the most uncomfortable with,?

The disease of obesity is many things, but above all, it is a very complicated, progressive disease that profoundly impacts not only individual lives such as Jeff Butts, but million of Americans and millions more around the world.

Consider the following:
In the United States of American 33.9% of adults are overweight, 34.9% of the are obese. 34.9% equals 78.6 million people.(1)
In the USA the disease of “obesity has become recognized as a national health threat and a major public health challenge.” (2)
The disease of obesity is associated with significantly higher all-cause mortality compared to the non-obese. (3)
It is estimated that the current generation of children will not live as long as their parents due to obesity and obesity related diseases. (4)
Obesity rates are increasing around the world. (5)
Discrimination, shame, blame, bias, and social stigma targeted towards people with the disease of obesity is widespread and generally socially acceptable.(6)

Mr. Jeff Butts suffered from morbid obesity. As he relates in the podcast interview, his obesity was so significant that for over 8 years, other than going to work, he rarely went anywhere. At all. He stayed home. Isolated. Disconnected. Lost. During this time, in his words, “food was my best friend.” When he did go out in public, he was often the target of discrimination, teasing, and shame. On so many levels it was simply easier to stay home.

During his many years of struggling with his disease, like many people, he did try to lose weight. And like many people, he would have a little success but it would be short-lived and followed by more weight gain.

You see Facebook, that is often the nature of the disease of obesity. At its core, obesity is a difficult disease to treat because it is the result of a complicated mix, or perfect storm, of biology, environment, genetics, psychology, physiology, and quite possibly factors that science has not even put on a name on yet.

But regardless of the causes of obesity most people who suffer from obesity only blame themselves and assume they simply lack enough willpower to cure their disease. Nothing could be further from the truth. But Society as a whole, rather than reaching out to help, prefers to condone the tragically misbegotten sentiment of shame and blame. It is a more convenient approach.

And you requesting that I remove Jeff’s before and after photos, probably because you fear his pictures might offend someone or are simply too good to be true, only serves to worsen the problem by limiting access to help, information, and education for those who need it the most.

Jeff is one of the lucky ones. His obesity is now in remission, hopefully forever. But really luck had NOTHING to do with it. Jeff’s after is the direct result of a combination of support, hard work, caring, diligence, surgery, and education. He now not only has a before photo, but he has an after photo too. I am sorry if his before and after comparison make you too uncomfortable.

I honestly didn’t see this coming from you. I assumed by giving you my money you could help me with this mission of helping those who struggle with the disease of obesity. But I guess not. I guess instead of getting paid to help spread a message of hope and caring, you prefer to use your massive influence to play it safe, by maintaining the illusion that babies are always adorable, couples are always madly in love, hair is always perfect, cats are always cute in videos, and every persons before photo looks exactly like their after photo. In other words, in Facebook land, life is perfect.

And even now, as I write you this open letter, I know I will have zero impact on you. Attempting to direct anything about Facebook is like trying to steer a tornado with a butterfly net. But you, Facebook, are not who I really care about. I care about helping people. Real people. With real problems. With real hopes and with real dreams. I care about their Before and I want to help them, if possible, find their after, however they want to define it. You see, the truth is, Facebook, you can’t have one without the other. Pretending otherwise is the greater offense, the greater disservice. There is already too much diminishing, too much shame, too much blame of people who struggle with obesity. It has to stop.

If I could make a wish, it would be that all the people around the world who struggle with the disease of obesity, no matter if they are in the midst of their before or living their wildest dreams after, would post their photos to Facebook. Its true, you do have the power to decide if my post gets boosted or not, but that’s it. When millions of people who struggle with obesity around the world come together and say enough, maybe then you will understand that this issue is so much more than about before and after photos and its more than results beyond expectation, and its more than portraying either too perfect or too undesirable images: its about human lives, its about connecting, its about empowering people. I hope we become the tornado to your butterfly net.

Reeger Cortell, FNP


There you have it. I don’t know if I am the most articulate person to stand up to Facebook but I know this made me mad and I hope it makes you mad too, mad enough to respond. I can’t do it without you. I can only do this part: let you know that it happened and that it’s not right. This is not just about Jeff. It’s about all the future episodes of the WLSP that will have before and after images. And this is about you, too. You deserve to be recognized. If you feel strongly, stand with me to let Facebook know that you deserve more than to be tossed aside as a policy falsely created to keep Facebook “safe and welcoming for everyone” because their version of safe and welcoming does not seem to include you.

And if you are thinking the answer is to boycott Facebook, I don’t think that would solve anything because these policies are pervasive and this issue will keep coming up again and again until the people whose lives are affected, take a stand and say enough. So please head on over and like the new Weight Loss Surgery Podcast Facebook page. Then, share the link for Jeff’s episode. Help me boost the post without Facebook. My $20 was going to get the episode in front of a one to two thousand people. Do you think we can do better than that? I think so. And one more thing, this episode will also be linked on the Weight Loss Surgery Podcast, FB Page. You could share this episode too and post your selfie photos while you are at it. Post your before and after. And if you are someone who does not yet have an After photo, this issue impacts you too. Because according to Facebook, it’s not only about before and after comparisons, or results too unexpected, it’s about them passing judgment on whether someone fits their definition of too perfect or too undesirable. And I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. That’s discrimination. ~Reeger

Mentions in the Episode:

(1) http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity_adult_11_12/obesity_adult_11_12.pdf
(2) http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm59e0803.pdf
(3) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=1555137
(4) http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/mar2005/nia-16.htm
(5) http://www.obesity.org/resources-for/what-is-obesity.htm
(6)  http://www.drsharma.ca/shame-and-blame-has-no-role-in-addressing-obesity.html; http://www.obesityaction.org/tackling-bias-respectfully; http://www.obesity.org/resources-for/what-is-obesity.htm


Connecting with me

Email: reeger@weightlosssurgerypodcast.com.
Twitter @preegerc
Facebook: Southern Oregon Bariatric Center
Facebook: Weight Loss Surgery Podcast

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jacinda October 19, 2014 at 11:19 pm

I’m so glad “we” have you. That is all.


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