December 21, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
30°F
test

‘Creature’ discomfort: Facebook page draws chuckles, jeers

It’s called “The Creatures of Lorain County.”

A screenshot of the “Creatures of Lorain County” Facebook page.

A screenshot of the “Creatures of Lorain County” Facebook page.

The Facebook page features a vast array of photos of local residents — many of whom don’t know they are being photographed and have their faces blurred — wearing unusual outfits or parked in haphazard ways. It’s the brainchild of Amy Clark of Elyria, and despite critics that call it online bullying, Clark said it’s just a fun way of drawing attention to the eccentricities of her hometown.

“To me, Lorain County is a different kind of place,” she said.

And, if you ask her, the page is here to stay.

“People love this page,” the 32-year-old Elyria resident said. “It has just blown up overnight.”

David Stewart of Elyria is not a fan.

The 32-year-old father of three would rather see the page disappear. With images of ill-dressed men and women plastered on the page for people to comment on at will, Stewart said the page encourages people to laugh at others’ misfortunes.

“I became aware of the page when it was featured on Fox 8 News about a week ago and as soon as I saw it I thought it was disgusting,” Stewart said. “It’s in poor taste. I would call it flat out bullying.”

In hopes of ridding Facebook of the page — Stewart said his direct pleas to the social media giant have gone ignored — he has created a petition on Change.org calling for the page and all similar pages to be taken down. In addition, Stewart has created The Creatures of the Creatures of Lorain County Facebook page to counteract Clark.

“It’s me acting as a voice to stand up to the online bullying that is represented on that page,” he said. “What I’m seeing — I don’t go on the page or post on the page, but I see what is going on. They have disabled veterans and mentally ill people — making fun of them. A lot of the pictures are of obese, white women wearing unflattering clothing.”

Stewart’s page has garnered 155 likes in the few days it has been up and there are 49 signatures on the petition.

Clark’s page has more of a following — more than 24,000 people at last count.

“We have more people who like the page than don’t like the page,” she said. “People who don’t like the page shouldn’t look at it. I don’t like porn, so I don’t go looking for it, nor do I look at it.”

But even those who don’t go looking for Clark’s brand of humor seem to easily find it.

Aja Romano, a writer for the Daily Dot, which bills itself as the Internet’s community newspaper, was turned onto Clark’s page with a Tumblr link. The link not only referenced Clark’s page, but another page — Sluts of Lorain County — that went up earlier this month, but has been taken down.

Based on many of the photos posted by Clark and others, Romano subsequently wrote an online article, “Is Facebook turning a blind eye to fat shaming?”

“It seemed to me that these two pages existed side-by-side,” said Romano of Bloomsfield, Ind. “But one was taken down in a day and the other was not. Does it surprise me? Yes and no. It surprises me that there has not been more public outrage. One of the quickest ways to get Facebook to react to pages like this is to cause a public outrage.”

Clark said the Sluts of Lorain County page did not belong to her.

“I actually reported that page because there was a 14-year-old child on that page,” she said. “I have no other affiliation but with the Creatures of Lorain County.”

Still, Romano said the page’s existence exposes a double standard within Facebook’s culture and highlights how pervasive ridiculing overweight people has become. At the very least it’s a form of bullying, she said.

“The takeaway from this incident seems to be that it’s totally OK to fat-shame, particularly if you focus on fat-shaming women, but it’s not OK to slut-shame,” Romano wrote earlier this month.

Nonetheless, followers of the Creatures’ page have given Clark praise every step of the way since its inception in April.

“This is a great website for those of us who need a good laugh during the day,” one poster said.

Adds another, “My car is on here and I think it’s the funniest ever! I have people beeping and waving at me now. I love it! Lol”

Still, others let Clark know how they feel once they see an offensive photo.

“This “creature,” as she may be called, probably doesn’t have Internet access thus has no idea that she is posing for people to make fun of her,” said one commenter under a photo of a woman sitting on a brick flowerbed. “Having said that she is probably also mentally ill or handicapped and you should be ashamed for calling her a creature or posting her picture for the enjoyment of others.”

Clark said she came up with the idea for the page because she would take pictures of people and things she thought were funny and posted them to her personal Facebook page. The response was huge.

“People loved them,” she said of the photos. “They thought it was hilarious. Like people walking down the street in footed pajamas — you don’t see that every day.’’

And, she is careful to stay within Facebook’s Community Standards against offensive language or hate speech, which is why she said the page has never been taken down.

“We don’t even have to blur out the faces, but we do it to be nice because it’s local,” she said. “The only time there is a name is when people tag themselves or their friends. They should get mad at their friends about that.’’

Clark said a lot of the photos are submissions. She gets at least 200 a day from people who see something they want on the page or who want to be featured as one of the creatures.

“We weed through them,” she said. “We pick and choose what can go on there and what can’t. We would never post a picture just because it makes fun of someone. It’s more about funny outfits, cars with duct tape or misspelled highway signs. There is one woman who has pink hair and we love her. She is a repeat creature.”

But even the notion of someone being called a creature rubs Stewart the wrong way.

“I’ve lived in Lorain County my entire life and basically I’m trying to fight it,” he said. “Every city has homeless people, disabled veterans or people down on their luck. Putting up a webpage is not going to create any change. We are not going to see a change until we get out there and help people. When was the last time the people who like this page stopped to offer them someone some clothing or something to eat?”

For those who don’t like Creatures of Lorain County, Clark has an alternative.

There is also a Facebook page called Beauties of Lorain County — also not a Clark page, but she is a fan.

“It’s perfect. If you think you are beautiful and want to celebrate your beauty, just send her a picture and the administrator will put it up,’’ Clark said.

That page’s administrator, Rachel Grasso, was once a fan of Clark’s page. In the beginning it was funny, but as the comments turned increasingly meaner, she said she stopped following the page daily.

“But I kept an eye on it to see if I made it up there like some of my friends,” she said.

She started the Beauties of Lorain County to give a platform to a more positive voice.

“Looking at that page, day after day, seeing the negativity — it was so sickening,” she said. “My page has people from all over the county. They are sisters, friends, wives, mothers and grandmothers. Basically, people nominate their friends to be on my page as a way of saying ‘I think you’re beautiful and I appreciate you.’ ”

Not actually friends with Clark, but more of the Facebook-only variety, Grasso, 26, of Lorain, said she understands why the “Creatures” page was started but also doesn’t like what it has become.

“It has just gotten out of hand and too aggressive,” she said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.