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Social Media Bans on Pro-Anorexia Content Are Encouraging But Will Have Limited Effect

Edmonds, WA (Aug 3, 2012) – Although two of the internet’s most popular social media sites have adopted policies that ban “pro-ana” content intended to paint eating disorders in a positive light, that’s just a small contribution to the work that needs to be done to lower the prevalence of anorexia and bulimia in our society, according to psychologist and author Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE.

Earlier this year, the  online “pinboard” service Pinterest and the micro-blogging site Tumblr both began prohibiting users from posting content that encourages harm to one’s own or another person’s mental or physical health. That includes visual and written content that portrays extreme dieting and food-purging behaviors as valid “lifestyle choices” and acceptable weight-control practices.

“Eating disorders cause great harm to the people who suffer from them, and can even result in death,” points out Dr. Jantz, a world-renowned eating disorder therapist, “so it’s outrageous for anyone to make anorexia or bulimia seem harmless, beneficial or glamorous. Unfortunately, however, the pro-anorexia content on social media sites constitutes just a small fraction of the unhealthy messages about food, dieting and body image that constantly bombard us.”

Online content that celebrates disordered eating has been around since the early days of the internet. Social media services are just the latest outlet for the pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia community, and their adoption by this subculture was an entirely predictable development.

Pinterest has risen rapidly in popularity to become the internet’s third most active social media site just two years after coming online. Pinterest had come under criticism for allowing pro-anorexia users to post “thinspiration” collections – pages of photos depicting thin and emaciated girls and women intended as role models to emulate. Tumblr has been an internet fixture since 2007 and now hosts close to 65 million user blogs. It had also faced a backlash for doing nothing to discourage the promotion of disordered eating. Both sites have enacted policies that prohibit content that encourages harm to oneself and others.

Dr. Jantz is the author many books, including the bestselling Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders.