Trigger warning: the following content may be sensitive for those with an eating disorder.
Back in August, Instagram took the – highly commendable – step of banning certain hashtags on their app.
The hashtags they chose to ban included searchable terms like #thinspo and #thinspiration, which are used to promote almost-unattainable ideals of thinness and fitness.
But now, Instagram have reversed their decision.
If you search for these terms on almost any social networking site – and now Instagram, too – you will find pages upon pages of images of scantily-clad young women, showing off taut stomachs and stick-thin thighs.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with hitting the gym and getting fit – and wanting to let people know that – the dangerous dark side to these particular hashtags is that they are linked to ‘pro-ana’ (or pro-anorexia) communities.
Thinspo isn’t about fitness, or health or wellbeing – it’s about thinness.
These images have not been posted to inspire people to get fit and healthy, go for a walk outside, or eat well. They have been posted to encourage girls to get skinny, obsess over the size of their thighs and – in many instances – not eat at all.
Previously, when terms like #thinspo and #thinspiration were searched for on Instagram, the user would end up with a 404 error message. Now, anyone who searches will find thousands of images to scroll through – as well as a warning from Instagram, and a link to the National Eating Disorders Association.
People who are looking for ‘support’ for their eating disorder – not to overcome their illness, but to keep going – will find images like this:
These images are deeply troubling.
This reversal from Instagram has been met with immediate backlash, from people who are concerned about enabling people who have eating disorders. In response, a spokesperson for Instagram told website Fast Feed:
We want Instagram to be a safe and fun place for people to capture and share moments.
That means finding a good balance between allowing people to express themselves and providing protections to prevent certain content that would be against our terms.
This is an evolving and ongoing process for us and we encourage people who come across content that makes them uncomfortable to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo and video on Instagram.
Other previously banned hashtags, that Instagram has allowed back onto the platform, include #getnakedpls, #tipsydumbcunt and #underboob.
Some of the hashtags that are still banned include #anal, #boobs, #braless, #nigga and #incest. The hashtag #loseweight is still on the banned list.
If you need help or support you can call the Butterfly Foundation support line on 1800 334 673.
Do you think hashtags like these should be allowed on social media? Is it better to have them searchable, and provide health warnings and links to appropriate health services? Or would it be better to ban them completely?