BODY POSITIVITY SERIES I
In 2020, social media can stand as your best friend one day, or your worst enemy the next. While it is a powerful tool for those seeking information and serves as a platform for those to speak on topics that may not make it to mainstream media, it’s risky due to the spread of misinformation. When eating disorders became a topic of discussion, many found relief in the opportunity to share and engage on online platforms, as well as offer advice to those who may be in the same situation. Yet, the generalization of these disorders, and the lack of specificity while sharing, have sometimes done more harm than good.
A picture is worth a thousand words, they say. In the early days of Tumblr and Xanga users with underlying body image issues found a community in those who felt the same. Some argued that sharing images of someone who was severely underweight and unhealthy would raise awareness and help users feel they are not alone. Others said this picture sharing was doing more damage to those who had these types of disorders.
Such pictures being shared have led to the creation of Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia behaviors, which promote the eating disorders of anorexia and bulimia. Some may feel they have emotional support through these online discussion groups. Medical professionals, however, argue that this is a coping technique that those affected will use in order to deny the severity of their illness. Through the evolution and growing presence in the media of “thinspiration,” medical professionals contend that the trends can in fact trigger and glorify the disorders.
In addition to promoting the disorder, the communities around them did not feel welcoming to all users. There is a stigma that surrounds eating disorders, that one must be underweight to have them. This falsity is one that can be more harmful for people who do have an eating disorder. They could never think to seek treatment because they are at normal or above weight. Seeing pictures promoting this stigma only glorifies certain disorders and leaves those outside feeling helpless and unsure of how to handle their specific illness.
The promotion, whether intended or not by people in the media, is one that has and continues to take a drastic effect on ones who suffer from body image disorders. However, with the normalization of discussing these topics and the research done to prevent these behaviors, people with body image issues and eating disorders can stay informed and educated.