May 1, 2012
Popular photo sharing website Instagram has cracked down on content that glorifies self-harm.
The site is disabling accounts that display images encouraging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorder related behavior.
Instagram says communication and discussion is important in aiding recovery but that it is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.
A typical ‘thinspiration’ blog displays the blogger’s weight and their ‘ultimate goal weight’.
Such blogs will often feature images of underweight women accompanied by slogans such as ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’.
Instagram says it will encourage users to eradicate pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia content by enabling them to ‘flag’ pictures or a particular user for review.
Hash tags such as ‘thinspiration’, ‘probulimia’ and ‘proanorexia’ will also no longer be searchable.
Sarah Spence of The Butterfly Foundation said pro-anorexia or bulimia websites were incredibly destructive, as they established a sense of community among people who suffer from eating disorders.
“What the blogs are trying to say is ‘we understand your actions, and we’re here to help you on your journey of losing weight’,” Ms Spence said.
“People feel more validated in their behavior because of this.
“They think they are doing the right thing, and that if they keep going down that track they’ll reach their ‘ultimate goal’ of weight loss.”
A recent study conducted by Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and King’s College in London found one in twelve teenagers harmed themselves, with girls more likely to do so than boys.
Instances of self-harm were most common in 15-year-olds, particularly in those who had symptoms of anxiety and depression.
A 2006 study investigating how young people who injured themselves sought help online, found that forums and discussion boards provided essential support but had potential to “normalise and encourage self-injurious behavior”.
It was also found self-harm forums would add “potentially lethal behaviors to the repertoire of established adolescent self-injurers”.
Instagram was named ‘iPhone App of 2011’ by Apple, has more than 40 million users, and was recently sold to Facebook for $1 billion.
Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Photos: Rosemary Leed