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Thinspo: The Dangerous Side of Pinterest

August 22, 2013

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Chances are if you have a Pinterest account, you have board topics like “Wedding Ideas” and “Healthy Dinners.” The social media site is great when it comes to organizing ideas in a visual way, and sharing pictures, recipes, or articles from around the web with your friends.

However, there is a darker side of Pinterest that the site is trying to ban. Hidden among the pictures of beautifully decorated apartments and smoothie recipes is a phenomenon known as “thinspiration” or “thinspo.” Girls as young as 11 or 12 are pinning images of extremely thin women with jutting ribs and collarbones with captions like the infamous Kate Moss quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” into their weight loss or fitness-themed boards.

This is the new wave of the “pro-ana” (short for pro-anorexic) movement that has been prevalent on the Internet for the last 10 years. Pro-ana sites provide a community for girls and some boys struggling with disordered eating to talk about effective dieting strategies and encourage each other to refrain from eating.

The concept has really taken off on sites like Tumblr and Pinterest in the last year because girls are able to anonymously swap photos of their most coveted thigh gaps and thin arms. Tumblr has banned any blog with labels like thinspiration, thinspo, pro-ana, bulimic or anorexic, and a search for these topics leads to help and support resources from those suffering from eating disorders. Unfortunately, a quick search on Tumblr for #thinspo still yields many shocking results, proving how impossible it is to completely ban or block the entire pro-ana movement online.

Pinterest has also publicly stated that they are banning thinspiration images from their site, but have not stated how this policy will be upheld. When the topic is searched for on the site, users are presented with the contact information for an eating disorder help hotline at the top of the search results page.

Many Pinterest users are trying to counteract the pro-ana community by posting images of fit women with six packs and strong legs tagged as #thinspo as well as messaging about how dangerous the movement is for girls. Sadly, the backlash doesn’t seem to influence girls obsessed with achieving impossibly thin bodies.

How do you feel the thinspo phenomenon should be handled on social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr?