Despite campaigns to take down "Thinspo" content from Tumblr and Pinterest, the material continues to emerge on different online communities, causing some to question if the bans are effective.
After both Tumblr and Pinterest set regulations to bar "thinspiration" content from their sites, Instagram became the latest home for quotes, tips and photographs promoting the mindset.
With more than 30,000 Instagram images tagged with "thinspo," some have suggested that the photo-sharing site will soon be under fire for promoting harmful ideals.
But the scrutiny these sites are under has done little to reduce or prevent thinspo material from spreading to other online platforms.
As Mashable points out, Pinterest changed its terms of service in March to exclude content that "creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement or physical or mental illness to yourself, to any other person, or to any animal.”
But a simple Pinterest search for "thinspo" shows the ban hasn't been effective in regulating content.
Results include photos and quotes, such as "Don't stop until you're proud" and "I look at thinspo like boys look at porn," that are accompanied by the #thinspo hashtag.
Mashable's Doug Barry observes that the difficulty in regulating content could stem from trouble differentiating thinspo images from photos of naturally thin women.
Given the large "secret community" of thinspo creators and consumers, some point out the content will continue to shift to different outlets as it is banned by others, the AFP-RelaxNews observes. One such platform might be YouTube.
Forbes' Denise Restauri reached out to a representative from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), who explained how the Web can play both a positive and negative role in developing communities for people dealing with similar issues.
"There is a real sense of shame, isolation and a need to connect with other people who 'get it.' The Internet offers anonymity with community. You don’t have to reveal who you are, but you can connect with others. But if you are connecting with people who aren’t working towards health and recovery, you will be stuck in your sickness too."
Models, including Karlie Kloss and Kate Moss, were criticized after their photos have inadvertently served as thinspiration or ended up on pro-ana sites that promote eating disorders.
Model and TV host Alexa Chung faced a backlash for a picture she posted on Instagram this week. Critics accused Chung of being "so skinny it's gross," causing the model to promptly remove the photo and set her account to private.
Although some thinspo bloggers acknowledge their eating disorders are unhealthy, they say they won't turn away others looking for a sense of belonging.
"I feel absolutely horrible introducing someone else to the lifestyle I've created for myself," Kate, a 17-year-old Tumblr user, told the Huffington Post in February.
"But if a girl comes to me and she's trying to shove her toothbrush down the back of her throat, I'm not going to tell her to stop because [...] it's just going to drag her further away," she added.
Still, some say banning the images isn't the answer to promoting a healthy body image.
"If we can't find it on the internet, all we would have to do is thumb through the pages of the infinite glossy magazines," Nick Watts, a trustee for Men Get Eating Disorders Too, wrote in a blog for HuffPost.
Watts says that photos "maintain and trigger behaviors," but that education is the key to solving the problem.
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