During the past 18 months Instagram has become the center for Thinspo and Pro-Ana communities. These communities are made up of people who are pro-eating disorders and wish to become (or are already) so thin it is unhealthy. Members of these communities post numerous pictures of protruding hipbones and rib cages as well as quotes that read “I wish my weight was as low as my self esteem,” “Sometimes I pray for bones,” “I wish I could convince myself to stop eating, but I am too weak,” and “Look at your thighs, put down the food”. Many of these posts end with #Ana, #Thinpiration, #ProAna, #Thinspo, and the list goes on.
Many people feel that social media platforms condone and promote eating disorders since the sites are allowing these photos, quotes, and hashtags to continue to exist. For the people suffering from eating disorders posting on social media and receiving likes and favorites is positive feedback for them. People suffering from eating disorders join these communities so that they are not alone. When they see other people posting similar pictures and quotes it makes them feel that what they are doing to their bodies is ok because all of these are people think and feel the same way as they do.
Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram have all taken steps to try and discourage these communities presence on its social media platform. Instagram no longer allows users to search #Thinsportation, #Thinspo, #ProAna and other terms that promote eating disorders. Instagram also claims it will disable accounts that are found encouraging or urging users to embrace eating disorders. However, users are easily getting around this policy and still continue to post graphic images.
Should Instagram be allowed to blockits users from searching for #Thinspiration, #Ana and #Thinspo? Does blocking these searches even make a difference? The content is still on Instagram, the pictures and quotes can still be found if users know who to search for.
Pinterest has added a disclaimer at the top of all search results that have to do with eating disorders that states,
“Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, they are mental disorders that if
left untreated can cause serious health problems or could even be life-threatening.
For treatment referrals, information, and support, you can always contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or www.nationaleatingdisorders.org”.
Will this actually help though? Is someone suffering from an eating disorder really going to call and get help, or will the Internet need to ban everything and anything that promotes eating disorders to stop these communities from growing?