It was the latest – and fastest-growing – social networking site to date when Grazia reported on the disturbing amounts of 'Thinspiration' emerging on Pinterest. But just one week later, and it seems the worrying ‘Thinspo’ craze, which sees girls posting photographs of dangerously thin women has found a new home: on Instagram.
Though it is shocking, unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise. The photographs of emaciated girls, often scrawled with mantras such as ‘You can feel sore tomorrow, or you can feel sorry tomorrow’, have become so problematic that they have been banned from social networking sites Facebook, Tumblr and now Pinterest too – but will Instagram be doing the same?
The picture App that we all know and love has now been inundated with posts that wouldn’t look out of place on a pro-ana website. A simple search for the tag ‘thinspo’ on Statigram (a site that allows users to search trends and tagged Instragram photos), produces more than 30,000 images. And just as we found on Pinterest, tags like ‘thighgap’ and ‘hipbones’ are uncovering thousands more.
Indeed, the problem has become so prevalent that Vogue Italia Editor, Franca Sozzani, vowed to use her position to help girls in the grip of anorexia just this week. A petition to close pro-ana websites, online blogs and social network sites that promote anorexia launched by Sozzani last year has, to-date, attracted 12,000 signatures. ‘I will soon launch a provocation to stop such sites,’ Sozzani said at a talk at Harvard University on Monday. ‘I will ask for the help of the users themselves. We will set up a chain 'against', since the law is unable to close such sites. Taking the blame is a necessary deed and finding a solution is even more important.’
For artist Stephanie Moore, 25, who spoke to Grazia last week, the prospect of pro-anorexia sites reaching a wider audience is terrifying. She discovered thinspiration blogs in 2005 while looking online for ways to lose weight. Before long, she weighed less than seven stone, which, to most people, was dangerously underweight. But to the girls who followed her blog, she was a hero.
‘I posted a photo of myself online and was swamped with feedback,’ she said. ‘”You’re the amazing shrinking woman”, one girl typed. “You’re my thinspiration”, commented another. I’d logged on with the intention of losing a few pounds, but before I knew it, I was hooked. I can see how social networking sites will be just as addictive for women suffering from an eating disorder… And worryingly, it’s so accessible.’
And Instagram currently have no measures in place to control the types of images that members can post – so self-harm photos are technically still allowed on the site. Instead, their community guidelines read: ‘Remember that our community is a diverse one, and that your photos are visible to people as young as 13 years old. While we respect the artistic integrity of photos, we have to keep our product and the photos within it in line with our App Store’s rating for nudity and mature content.’
But even if their guidelines are updated, there’s no guarantee that the bloggers won’t just find another, equally viral social networking site to gather – and they are becoming increasingly difficult to regulate. ‘You might click on it out of curiosity or even by accident and then suddenly see all these images popping up and be exposed to a world you never even knew about,’ says Stephanie. ‘These boards are incredibly damaging.
‘When I was using thinspiration sites, I felt like these girls were my friends. But they’re not friends. They’re not looking out for you. On the blogs, anorexia is glorified. It portrays girls as being strong and in control, rather than being in the grip of a horrible thing that will tear your life apart.’
If you need help with an eating disorder, call 0845 634 1414 or visit b-eat.co.uk.