New Delhi, November 1, 2017 : I have grown up as a conscious kid; hours spent looking at pictures of strangers with perfectly toned bodies have been like an everyday ritual, carried out religiously, day after day. But thankfully, my fascination for the ‘ideal’ body that ruled the internet never materialized and it was not long before I became happy in my own skin.
Years later, I look at my 12 year old sister, who wishes to consume only watermelon juice because that’s what her favorite blogger does too, to maintain her fit body. She is my teenage sister’s ‘#fitspo’, she proudly announces.
Just a young teenager, where is she getting all this information from, you’d wonder.
The answers is; everywhere!
We are all chasing unrealistic expectations when it comes to our body image, courtesy the enormous content we consume over different social media.
Social media has completely radicalized the way we see body image- ourselves and other people, and transformed the way we interact with the larger society.
If analyzed duly,
aren’t we all seeking validation
on the internet at the
expense of a ‘like’?
You can never be sure which side you will be on – messages on social media can spread self-hatred, animosity, encouragement, joy and a myriad of other emotions. It is like this that movements have created not just ripples but waves on the social media; some positive while others more damaging than we are prepared to handle.
People are constantly being bombarded with pictures of the body image that is ‘goals’, the ‘ideal’ body; photos and videos of people dieting and exercise have become a part of mainstream generation, so much so that the hashtag fitspo is one of the most used hashtag of the present times.
This increased proliferation of the ‘ideal’ body image often has people comparing themselves to images of strangers and people online, hoping to be more like them.
We are at a phase of life when
images of strangers’ bodies and lifestyles not only affect but govern our lives-
in ways that may be far beyond
According to a study published in October, it was revealed that an increasing number of people are celebrating extreme thinness on various social media accounts. The research, carried out by researchers at University of Exeter, shed light on the hundreds of users, especially women, who were praising anorexic bodies on Twitter and Instagram under the umbrella term ‘thinspiration’.
Researchers analyzed 734 images that were posted on Twitter, Instagram and We Heart It with indicative hashtags- #thinspiration, #bonespiration and #fitspiration.
The images that came under the scanner were selfies taken by girls, boasting about their withered bodies by highlighting their protruding collar bones, spine, rib cage and hip bones.
It was revealed that an alarming amount of content online is dedicated to glorifying such shrunken bodies, plagued by eating disorders.
Shockingly, the researchers found that every shared image was complimented alongside proud captions boasting about the calories they had consumed that day, or how they ‘totally rock a thigh gap’.
The Instagram Effect
I remember being in school when the entire ruckus about a thigh-gap gained momentum. After almost 5 years, I am a 22 year-old adult now, and the world continues to rave about the thigh-gap.
Different eating orders, even umbrella terms like “Pro-Ana” and “Pro-Mia” that were essentially aimed at promoting anorexia and bulimia as an ideal lifestyle choice, are not new. However, the only difference is the dangerously new breeding platform that social media has provided to these hazardous body image campaigns.
Researchers are convinced that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are even more harmful than stipulated websites in support of anorexia due to the increased accessibility and wider target audience of as these mediums.
Not very surprisingly, the Bonespiration movement has now become rampant – easily accessible with hashtags like needtobethin, thinspiration, fitspo, etc, pro-eating disorder and a specifically shrunken body image content drive this campaign on almost all social media platforms.
According to Claire Mysko, spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association, “Thinspiration is content that promotes weight loss but often in a way that actively glorifies eating disordered behavior and thoughts.”
#Thinspo and #Fitspo And Eating Disorders
#Thinspo : The thinspiration or the thinspo movement has an enormous presence with almost all bloggers and models using it as a hashtag in their posts. Although thinspo does not categorically promote eating disorders, it is dominated by images of unrealistically (and dangerously) thin women (and sometimes men), who portray themselves as the ideal body image; an inspiration for people to lose enormous amounts of weight.
#Fitspo : The fitspiration, or fitspo hashtag initially emerged as a counter movement to thinspo by promoting healthy eating and working out culture but it is popularly believed that the movement makes use of equally unrealistic and hence dangerous imagery.
These extreme behaviors foster unhealthy expectations in the minds of individuals who then begin to seek impossible results from their diets and exercise plans to look like the ‘ideal’ bodies that rule the internet.
Various researches are known to have noted that constant exposure to such content psychologically affects users.
According to another study published in January by researchers at University of Adelaide (Australia), it was found that women posting ‘fitspiration’ posts on Instagram are at a greater risk of suffering from eating disorders.
Additionally, anorexia nervosa reports nearly 10 per cent mortality rate, thus being the most dangerous psychological disorder. People who do not die from anorexia can still suffer health effects like loss of bone mass, damage to heart, and withered immune system.
In 2012, Instagram had banned the use of five hashtags “thinspiration”, “imugly”, “anorexia”, “proana”, and “thighgap”.
However, that did little to no help as propagators of these body image hashtag trends look for alternate spellings or combinations of words that are close to the original and can convey similar meanings. You would be surprised to know that despite the ban, there continue to be more than 1,44,000 posts tagged #bonespo on Instagram to date.
Is There No End?
Social media has garnered a lot of criticism for such gregarious body image content that propagates unhealthy behaviors and attitudes, because of which some social media sites have updated their guidelines and instructed users to strictly not post content promoting self-harm in any manner, doing which can lead to dismissal of their accounts. However, how practical is it to monitor the billions of posts that are shared on a daily basis?
While several hashtags like #pro-ana or #pro-mia have been banned by social media vigilantes, several users continue to post #thinspiration content with new hashtags that haven’t been recognized by the social media police.
Certainly, this has emerged as an online epidemic, now beyond the realm and control of social media.
Approach to Recovery
Every coin as a flip side.
Social media platforms also combine pro-recovery groups that make use of hashtags that people seeking a way out search for.
“It is like an intervention”.
– Claire Mysko,
director of programs,
the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), USA
Individuals seeking recovery from an unhealthy lifestyle or anorexia can connect with people who have been affected by similar notions of an unhealthy body image and eating disorders and receive comments of encouragement from all over the world – the warmth and the support are literally like getting a virtual hug.
Instagram has also now installed a filter that offers support every time a user searcher for similar dangerous words like anorexia.
~ NewsGram supports all things healthy.
We urge you to go online and have a look yourself at all the ‘thinspiration’ posts. They tend to glamorize anorexia and promote frail models and starvation, ignoring their health and well being.
Anorexia is not photogenic.
Anorexia is not glamorous. Not from the outside, definitely not from the inside.