Was Tumblr’s Effort to Ban “Thinspiration” Content Successful?

by Intern Lauren

Tumblr, fairly notorious for hosting images that glorify self-harm, announced several months ago its plan to ban “thinpsiration” photos. But a quick search for the tags ‘thinspiration,’ ‘pro ana,’ ‘anorexia,’ and ‘bulimia’ all yield results reflecting the very images and posts the popular social networking website promised to remove. What gives, Tumblr?

“Thinspiration,” or “thinspo,” refers to a collection of images, words, mantras, and associations that are intended to inspire an individual, regardless of their natural body type, to be stick-thin.

If you can bear to sift through these innumerable, mostly dehumanizing images of anonymous anorexic models, sometimes cropped to show only protruding collar bones/shoulder blades/rib bones, and sometimes originating from magazines or the runway, you may come across a little thing that the Tumblr “thinspo” community calls, the “ABC Diet.” Saying that you’re on the “ABC Diet” is a fancy way of saying that you’re starving and depriving yourself of essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. The disturbing diet is followed for 8 weeks, with strict calorie allowances per day, ranging from 500 to zero.

Sprinkled throughout “ABC Diet” logs and “thinspo” images were posts from various Tumblr users, sharing their individual experiences along the journey to perfection. Alarmingly, one read, “My stomach is making noises and sharp pains…I know this may sound weird, but I love those sounds,” followed by a smiley face emoticon (Insert sad face emoticon, here).

Equally frightening, another user posted, “In the end all that matters is to get in the double digits.” Double digits, meaning, 99 pounds or less.

To be fair, Tumblr can’t be completely blamed for hosting content that glorifies eating disorders, whether that was the intention or not. We simply can’t pretend that these images don’t exist everywhere. Just take a minute to thumb through Seventeen, Vogue, or Cosmopolitan. Hopefully, you can even unearth the table of contents from the copious amount of self-esteem-depleting advertisements, polished off with an overly generous helping of Photoshop (I’m looking at you, Glamour).

Though he welcomes the move to moderate this type of negative content, Nick Watts, a trustee for Men Get Eating Disorders Too, says that the key to ever winning the fight against these issues is by not looking at the fire, but, rather, the fuel that keeps the flame alive. The fuel, he adds, is the problems and disorders that are driving people to consume this dangerous breed of media.

Pro-anorexic blogs and images won’t single-handedly cause an eating disorder, but they certainly will trigger the behaviors associated with them and maintain these behaviors in people who are already suffering, Watts points out. Teaching and spreading awareness that idolizing these types of images is ultimately self-destructive and just flat out unhealthy in all the senses, and hammering this mindset into the impressionable minds of young girls, is certainly a productive first step to take in the ongoing fight against “thinspiring” content.

Images courtesy of LOCKSTOCKB/SXC.HU and 44abc.tumblr.com.


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