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NY Times slammed over column urging readers to use pandemic to dump ‘obese’ and ‘depressed’ friends

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While parents have long told kids you are who you surround yourself with, a New York Times article took that a little too far and the paper is being slammed for fat-shaming.

Titled “How to Rearrange Your Post-Pandemic ‘Friendscape,’” the article’s author Kate Murphy urged readers to take advantage of the pandemic to review their choice of friends now that social interaction is on the upswing.

“Psychologists, sociologists and evolutionary anthropologists say it behooves us to take a more curatorial approach when it comes to our friends because who you hang out with determines who you are,” she wrote.

And to be sure that she had the attention of her readers, she detailed the positive and negative effects of your choosing.

“Having friends who encourage, stimulate and support you is associated with improved immunity, lower blood pressure and higher cognitive function,” Murphy said. “Having no friends, toxic friends or superficial friends not only can make you feel insecure, lonely or depressed but also can accelerate cellular aging and increase your risk of premature death.”

Suggesting that most people are too busy or too lazy to review who they are friends with and that, because it takes more energy to cultivate new friends, folks tend to stick with the ones they have, Murphy explained that the “pandemic shook us out of our social ruts, and now we have an opportunity to choose which relationships we wish to resurrect and which are better left dormant.”

Speaking about “foreground friends,” which she claimed there was a limited number of slots — four to six, maximum — she said these are the people “who have the most profound impact on your health and well-being, for good or ill.”

And that’s when Murphy went off the rails, given today’s standards.

“Indeed, depressed friends make it more likely you’ll be depressed, obese friends make it more likely you’ll become obese, and friends who smoke or drink a lot make it more likely you’ll do the same,” she wrote.

Of course, there was the not-so-distant Cosmopolitan campaign to assure America that obesity was in fact healthy, so Murphy should have been forewarned.

The reaction online was swift, as overweight people and friends of overweight people objecting to the suggestion, noting that it’s not a very healthy way to pick your friends.

Here’s a sampling of some of the responses from Twitter:

Tom Tillison


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