We know that blogging and social media can be inspiring. Content on the Internet can empower us, motivate us, and even help to improve our lives — whether it's finding ways to squeeze in a workout or trying new healthy recipes. On the whole, the web has done a lot to promote health and wellness. But, there is a dark side to the Internet. A side that promotes much more harm than good: sites known as "thinspo" or "thinspiration" blogs that promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.
Also known as "pro-Ana" sites, they have been investigated by PBS Frontline and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Often targeting young teen girls, these sites basically provide community support for those with eating disorders — telling them what to do, how to do it and providing encouragement for a life-threatening way of eating. While many of these sites are protected by the right of free speech, one major player in the web world is taking a stand. Tumblr, a type of short-form blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, videos, links, quotes, and audio, recently announced on its site that it is planning to change its content policy to prohibit blogs that actively promote self-harm, including anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide.
According to Tumblr, "These are messages and points of view that we strongly oppose, and don’t want to be hosting." Currently Tumblr is accepting comment on how to best go about this. They are seeking feedback on whether to completely prohibit the material or permit them to stay up, accompanied by a public service warning that directs readers to helplines run by organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Eating Disorders Awareness Week kicks off on the 26th, so the timing of Tumblr's announcement couldn't be more appropriate.
While I don't have a Tumblr account, I do have a healthy living blog that promotes a balanced approach when it comes to working out and eating right — and one that is definitely not about a number on the scale. I'm by no means one who wants to censor people, but when it comes to a public forum like the Internet where young girls can easily get sucked into the wrong type of message, I commend Tumblr for taking a stand on this issue. Honestly, I think they should combine both of their suggestions, by prohibiting the material and then directing those searching for it to the NEDA.
Teen girls — and all of us — are subjected to hundreds of images a day both online and off that are consciously and unconsciously telling us what we should or should not look like. We already get enough pressure from society on how to look and how much we should weigh. In my opinion, we simply shouldn't stand for organizations that promote self harm. It's just too damaging and too dangerous. According to the NEDA, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males in the U.S. are fighting a life-and-death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. And millions more are struggling with binge eating disorder.
Do you agree with my stance on this issue? Or do you think that Tumblr is going to far by censoring user's content? Let's discuss!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.