Photo from Tollie Schmidt’s photostream: tollieschmidt
There is nothing new about obsession with body image but the battlefront has relocated from magazines and our mirrors to the social media.
The term “Thinspiration” – thinspo in short – is given to pictures, videos, blogs and quotes or any form of media that “inspires” girls to lose weight or to embrace anorexia or bulimia. According to the US cultural studies journal New Media and Society, thinspiration websites fall into three groups: pro-anorexia, pro-recovery and professional organisation sites.
The National Eating Disorder Association of the US has found more than 80 per cent of women are unsatisfied with their body image and reports that more than 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from eating disorders. Supporting studies published in The Lancet medical journal show a third of eating disorder patients have visited thinspo websites.
Search for “pro ana” or thinspiration in Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr or Instagram and you find a gallery of emaciated, undernourished women showing off their protruding collarbones, rib cages and stick-thin legs.
Negative responses to such displays have driven social media forums such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, in partnership with America’s National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), to adopt new policies to deter the behaviour. The forums warn users that images promoting self-harm or eating disorders will be removed and the users’ accounts will be deleted. Pinterest and Instagram advises users “These images may contain graphic content” and post a link to the NEDA website.
The policies were enforced after Alexa Chung, a British TV presenter and contributing editor to the British Vogue provoked an uproar last year when she uploaded spindly self-portraits on Instagram. The images were widely denounced as “disgusting” and she was labelled a “Pro Ana”.
But thinsperation obsessives have been quick to by-pass the forums’ attempts at censorship. Thousands of concerning images still appear on Instagram but are now tagged as recovery stories or as #Fit or #Fitsperation.
Similar euphemisms appear in Pinterest where Health and Fitness is an optional category of interest. The photo feed is riddled with pro anorexia content. It seems the Thinspiration community will persevere. – Jessika Haangana