The Self-Harm ‘Thinspo’ Community Is House-Hunting on Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram
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Thinspo tumblr : After being banned from Tumblr and Pinterest, the online pro-anorexic ‘thinspo’ community — where members (mostly females) gather to share’skin and bones’ photographs, self-harm messages, and deadly dieting suggestions — has found a new home on Instagram.
Many girls attend to compete and to encourage their “friends” to participate in self-harm.
Others are looking for new companions to replace the ones they’ve lost as a result of the isolation brought on by eating disorders, but instead of seeking assistance, they’ve become engulfed in a world of self-destruction.
Thinspiration, a mix of the phrases thin and inspiration, is short for ‘thinspo.’
In this case, inspiration entails frightening photos of emaciated women and statements that encourage people to starve.
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides the following statistics and facts:
— Over half of adolescent females and nearly a third of adolescent boys engage in unhealthy weight-loss practises include skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and using laxatives.
— Girls aged 15 to 19 years old account for 40% of newly recognised cases of anorexia.
Why are these young ladies looking for a home?
Tumblr was their primary abode in January 2012. Tumblr kicked them off in February after they amended their terms of service to prohibit any content that encourages or glorifies self-harm, including anything that praises anorexia (pro-ana), bulimia (pro-mia), or other eating disorders (ED).
They packed their belongings and relocated to Pinterest. Pinterest, on the other hand, ejected them with a similar ban in March.
Instagram has become their new home. Self-harm photographs are technically OK according to Instagram’s community guidelines: “Keep in mind that our community is varied, and your photos could be seen by persons as young as 13 years old.
We must keep our product and the photographs within it in compliance with our App Store’s nudity and mature content rating, while respecting the aesthetic integrity of photos.
In other words, do not publish any type of nudity or mature content.”
While prohibiting thinspo and pro-ana content has some advantages, it isn’t the answer.
Unfortunately, girls are emigrating to new settlements, breaking into those from which they were ejected, and establishing their own.
Despite the fact that Tumblr and Pinterest have been banned, a Google search for the terms “pro-ana” and “thinspo” turns up harmful postings and pins on both platforms.
It’s a stretch to believe that bans alone will deter girls with a strong desire to locate one other.
They’ll find new ways to live and new places to call home.
All of this leads to the fundamental question: What exactly are eating disorders?
What is it about these groups that makes them so addictive? What can we do to provide a healthy community for girls that will help them recover rather than band together and self-destruct? I contacted Claire Mysko at NEDA:
There’s a genuine sense of humiliation and isolation, as well as a need to connect with those who ‘understand it.’
The Internet combines anonymity with a sense of belonging. You are not required to divulge your identity, but you can connect with others.
However, if you surround yourself with people who aren’t working toward health and recovery, you’ll be stuck in your illness.
That’s exactly what’s going on here. That is why a positive online presence is so important.
We see the need for people who are struggling to get together and be supportive, but we also recognise the need for them to be safeguarded from content that would exacerbate their problems.
They need to hear that things can improve and that their lives do not have to be dictated by a number on a scale.
NEDA just created proud2bme.org, a new home for young people developed as a positive alternative to pro-ana and thinspo, in response to the demand for healthy sites that will work to battle all of these poisonous images and messaging.
More optimism comes from young women and girls who are assisting others in the fight against eating disorders.
When Kirsten Haglund was crowned Miss America in 2008, she was 19 years old. Kirsten’s battle with anorexia nervosa began when she was 12 years old.
Her Miss America platform was personal: Raising Eating Disorders Awareness.
She is now an Emory University student, a Community Relations Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center, and the founder of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, whose aim is to gather funds for treatment scholarships for families and individuals suffering from eating disorders.
Kirsten and I had the following conversation:
When you were diagnosed, treated, and recovered, how old were you?
I began to struggle when I was 12 years old. My parents took me to the paediatrician for the first time when I was 15 years old, realising that I had a major condition.
To fully heal physically and mentally, it took two years of intensive outpatient therapy with a treatment team of professionals (physician, ED Specialist, nutritionist, and psychologist).
What did you see in the mirror before you were diagnosed with anorexia?
Until I reached adolescence, I had no negative feelings about my physique. I felt fat, ungainly, too tall, and too huge after that.
Because the ballet body ideal is flat-chested, skinny, pre-pubescent appearing, almost a boy-like frame, I didn’t enjoy the concept of maturing into a woman.
I used to think of myself as overweight and clumsy, and so ugly, before I started ‘dieting.’
What did you see in the mirror when you were battling anorexia?
Ironically, the more physically and emotionally ill I became, the ‘bigger’ I believed I became.
My eyes continued to focus like laser beams on the regions of my body that would never be slim enough, toned enough, or good enough when I glanced in the mirror.
I’d break down in tears because I was torturing my body in order to achieve this slim perfection that seemed to elude me.
When the body is undernourished, the eyes are unable to see clearly.
As I became worse, my body image strayed further and further from reality.
Except for me, everyone could see how much I needed assistance.
Is it true that anorexia “simply happened” or that there was a turning point?
There was a time when I decided that if I wanted to be a successful ballet dancer, I would do whatever it took, even if it meant denying myself meals that ‘ordinary humans’ enjoyed, such as pizza, hamburgers, and birthday cake.
I felt powerful and unique as soon as I started doing this. People appreciated my’self-control,’ but they had no idea that I was controlled by food.
Restriction became nearly addictive as time went on, and I wanted to become a better and better ‘anorexic.’
I’d want to stress that the entire trip began as a simple attempt to ‘drop five pounds’ so that I could have smaller thighs… but many small steps lead down a very dangerous, dark path.
Who were the villains during recovery: Food? Parents? Teachers? Friends? Doctors? You?
Everyone was a villain, including the doctors, who I thought were just trying to make me obese and didn’t comprehend what I was going through.
My parents, because they were the food cops in my eyes. Friends, because they invited me to social occasions with food, which I interpreted as a plot to force me to eat and grow weight.
You’re driving yourself insane. The fact was, my eating disorder was my enemy, and the only way to find happiness, health, and healing was to break its hold on my mind..
Anorexia convinced me that being small, fit, and gorgeous was the answer, but in the end, all those things brought me was despair, solitude, and a life that was nothing more than a shell.
What do you want the rest of the world to know about you?
I want the world to know that you don’t have to look like a “holocaust survivor” to be suffering from an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise.
Many women who die as a result of eating disorder problems (electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrest) are in the “healthy weight range” or have a normal BMI.
If you suspect someone in your life is having difficulties, speak up right away because early intervention can save lives.
Finally, the media, entertainment, and other women wage a fierce attack on women’s bodies.
The only way others will regard you for more than your appearance is if you value yourself.
We can’t alter everything about how the world regards women that we don’t like, but we can change our own hearts and minds.
NEDA’s Live Helpline is 800-931-2237, and they also have a website.