Opinion: Self-Harm Policies From the Other Side

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Over the past few months the website Tumblr and the iPhone app Instagram have instituted policies against their users posting media that promotes self-harm (i.e. thinspiration, pro-cutting, pro-suicide). I agree that these policies would, in theory, reduce the amount of self-harmers who utilize these media sharing devices to promote their ideals, but have we stopped to think what this community really thinks about these new policies?

Anorexia is something that I have struggled with since I was a child. The first time I ever thought there was something wrong with my body was in 1st grade when my mom picked me up after school and I asked her why my thighs were so big. The look of astonishment on my mother’s face is burned into my brain, she looked at me like I had grown an extra head and told me nothing about my body was “big.” Looking back I know she was right, but when you have an ideal of beauty like the one I have, everything is too big.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness with the mortality rate of anorexia being 12 times higher than the death rate of all causes of death for females between the ages of 15 and 24. So it would make sense why popular media sources such as Tumblr and Instagram have chosen to take precautions against their users posting thinspo (images that inspire people to be thin).

Looking at these statistics, people often think that anorexics, like myself, don’t understand what we’re doing to our bodies, but the truth is that we know what we’re doing and we know it’s bad. The problem is that we don’t care. We just want to get to that perfect skin-and-bones figure. We feel like if we get to that we’ll finally be happy and content with ourselves and our lives. For us, looking at thinspiration, or thinspo, is theraputic. Thinspo renews our faith that we can achieve our goals and that everything isn’t as bad as it seems.

This is why we post thinspo on our Tumblrs and Instagrams. Having these thoughts and these negative images of ourselves is incredibly destructive and difficult–thispo gives up a sense of hope that we rarely feel. I, myself, have a thinspo Tumblr and I never really saw anything wrong with it until I went into recovery. Even though I knew what I was doing was bad, I didn’t quite realize how severe it was until my parents had to take me to the doctor because I was too weak to go to school and my doctor told me that if I didn’t try to get better I would probably die in a few weeks.

Honestly, I don’t think that the self-harm community cares about the ban. We still post tons of thinspo everyday with tags like “norexic” instead of “anorexic” so that it doesn’t get taken down. Whenever I’m on Tumblr, probably about half or a little over all the posts on my dashboard are thinspiration pictures or progress posts. Since thinspo is sort of like a comfort blanket for a lot of us and these thinspo communities are like little families for us, you can count on us finding ways around the “ban.”

I think that it’s a lovely gesture that these media sources are trying to make by banning self-harm content, but I honestly don’t think it can be done effectively. This is the Internet. If people can’t get their thinspo from Tumblr or Instagram, which they will be able to despite the ban, they’ll go to Google, Blogspot, Flickr, and anywhere they can think of to find it. If you lost your baby blanket, wouldn’t you turn over your house looking for it?

Bottom line is that this ban is nice plan with wonderful intentions that just isn’t possible due to human nature.

If you would like to read more about Tumblr’s ban or about Instagram’s ban on self-harm content that Hannah Ellefritz wrote, please click the respective links.


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3 Responses to “Opinion: Self-Harm Policies From the Other Side”

  1. Anonymous on May 15th, 2012 8:56 pm

    this is an interesting angle on the ban. in my experience, however, i find that people who struggle with an eating disorder don’t actually believe that they are struggling with an eating disorder, and instead whole-heartedly believe that their eating restrictions are a choice. because of this i don’t know many people who associate themselves with labels like “anorexic” or like “bulimic.” while I’m not very familiar with the world of “thinspiration” as a mechanism that applies to people with eating disorders, in fact I understood that most users of thinspiration didn’t actually suffer from an eating disorder and therefore felt the need for the inspiration in order to get thin, under the premise that they are regarded by people with eating disorders, i wonder if these images really give hope or if they instead fuel a hopelessness that when looking at these images, people with anorexia begin to hate themselves more because they do not look like the image.

  2. Madeline Dutton-Gillett on May 18th, 2012 3:13 pm

    I agree that everyone has different reasons for posting thinspo, but if you break down the very word “thinspiration” its a mix between “thin” and “inspiration.” The purpose of thinspo is to inspire you to be thin and a side-effect of posting it and looking at it all the time is that you feel even worse about yourself. Yes, it does fuel the hopelessness that this disease comes with but we don’t usually post it for the purpose of making ourselves feel more hopeless and depressed. Also, all but a few of the individuals that I know who have eating disorders are aware of it and do associate themselves with their respective disease; especially if they’ve been through recovery like I have. When so much focus is put on your disease during recovery you almost can’t help but associate it with who you are. Before recovery, I knew that what I was doing was dangerous and most of my friends in this community know that there are other ways but for me, not eating is a mechanism for dealing with stress in addition to trying to be thinner. Eating disorders are very complex diseases and I think that everyone has their own opinions on them, but I just know from my experience and contact with others who are afflicted with this disease in support groups and on these websites that thinspo is only a very small part of all the things that effect our view of ourselves and I don’t think that this ban will do much.

  3. Madeline Sr. on May 18th, 2012 3:34 pm

    I never thought about thinspiration representing a goal for people battling eating disorders. I always thought it was more self-imposed taunting than a “renewal of faith.” You’ve shed a different, more personal light on the anorexic/bulimic/thinspo community and I applaud you for it.

Opinion: Self-Harm Policies From the Other Side