Recently, Google rolled out a new test feature to a small number of users that showed them the amount of calories that they could burn by walking their chosen route instead of driving or taking public transit. In an attempt to make the caloric amounts more tangible, the feature also translated them into — get this — mini cupcakes.
It seems the company's intentions were pure in that it wanted to playfully encourage a bit of physical activity. However, it's clear that Google didn't take users that may struggle with disordered eating into account. Many individuals took to Twitter to voice their concerns, saying that the new feature made them feel shamed and judged for eating and could be an extremely harmful trigger for those battling eating disorders. The worst part: the feature wasn't something you opted into, and there was no way to turn it off.
Piss off @googlemaps, I don't even eat cupcakes. Can't believe you can't turn this crap off! 😡 If I want calorie counting I'll ask for it! https://t.co/DAApTmj7PkPiss off @googlemaps, I don't even eat cupcakes. Can't believe you can't turn this crap off! 😡 If I want calorie counting I'll ask for it! https://t.co/DAApTmj7Pk— Angie 安吉 (@AngieMcKeown) October 17, 2017October 17, 2017
Some also noted that the fact that Google was measuring the calorie count in cupcakes, a food most often associated with women, meant it was contributing to the dangerous and unhealthy diet culture young girls and women often fall prey to.
As a result of all this, the the cupcake calorie counter didn't even last a whole 24 hours before it was pulled. I speculate that reception of this update would have been different had it been an optional thing users could toggle on or off by choice. As someone who has had a lot of experience with shame and self-hatred centered around eating and body image, I understand the constant pressure to obsessively count calories. Though these triggers may seem small and trivial to some — and oh boy, did they — to others they're a first step toward relapse.
As of right now Google hasn't commented on whether or not it's going to tweak the feature and reintroduce it at a later date, but it's looking like chances are slim.
Tory Foulk is a writer at Mobile Nations. She lives at the intersection of technology and sorcery and enjoys radio, bees, and houses in small towns. When she isn't working on articles, you'll likely find her listening to her favorite podcasts in a carefully curated blanket nest. You can follow her on Twitter at @tsfoulk.
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