As I might have mentioned before (in this article, or this one, it basically keeps me up at night), I have a hatred for thinspiration that cannot be appeased.
But how would you feel if you found out that your best friend, your daughter or your classmate spends hours pouring over what you thought were "harmless fashion blogs" but are in actuality thinsporation blogs?
Last month, Seventeen Magazine published an article that shined a well-needed light on what many are calling the dark side of Tumblr. Indeed, the thinspo epidemic (thinspiration i.e.: blogs that promote, encourage, and inspire thinness) can no longer be ignored, for its health and societal hazards are just too significant to overlook. Here is my detailed, researched account of this nasty Internet bug.
Bad, Bad Ideas
Think looking at a bunch of unreasonably thin women can't affect you or your peers? Think again.
In this study by Stanford Medical School ^2, a staggering 96.0% of the patients reported learning new weight loss or purging techniques. When it comes to their patients who were diagnosed with an eating disorder, pro–eating disorder site users did not differ from nonusers in health outcomes but reported spending less time on school or schoolwork and had a longer duration of illness. Similarly, a NCBI survey demonstrated that in girls, visiting pro-anorexia websites was associated with a higher drive for thinness, worse perception of appearance and more perfectionism ^3.
It's Growing- Fast
The Internet is wonderful, but the ability to reach millions of people across the globe can be just as dangerous as it is helpful. A survey by Internet security firm Optenet found a 470% increase in pro-ana and pro-mia sites from 2006 to 2007, back in the day that the Myspace and Xanga platforms were at the peak of their popularity. However, Xanga, at the top of its game, in 2006, had 27 millions users; with the explosions of internet accessibility, that number seems minuscule, especially considering that Tumblr, as of August 8th 2013, has over 130.5 million blogs. There is a reason these blogs are becoming more and more menacing; they are spreading like a body negative wildfire.
Dirty Little Secret
But you know your friends and family; they would never do that...or would they? In the same Stanford study, 52.8% of the 106 parents of patients diagnosed with an eating disorder did not know whether their child visited these sites, yet we know at least 35.5% of patients did. "Home" computers are becoming scarce, and smart phones, laptops and tablets are what most young adults use on a day to day basis to scour the internet. With no access to their browser history, the presence of wifi virtually everywhere and the easy,simple access to these potentially fatal websites, how can we keep tabs on those we love? Oh, and if you think the boys and men in your life are spared, I'd reconsider that thought. In the same NCBI survey, 5.9% of the 13, 15 and 17 year old boys had visited such websites.
Several social media giants such as Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest claim to seek out and regularly delete pro-ana related groups, blogs and pictures, but for various reasons, especially in Tumblr's case, this crackdown has been unsuccessful.
What can these social media platforms do?
What can we, as civilians, do to protect and inform the younger computer-using generation?
Until next time, my loves<3