Is Social Media Making Eating Disorders Worse

Social Media Side-Effects. Good or Bad?

Pro-eating-disorder social-media sites are dangerous to girls and young women. We don’t mean “pro-eating” as in “professional eating”. We mean it to say those people and sites who are FOR eating disorders. What? you mean such a thing exists?

Why would any site be in favor of eating disorders?

A 2010 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found that when pro-eating-disorder terms like “pro-anorexia” and “thin and support” were searched, 83 percent of the search-engine results were websites supporting eating-disorder behavior through images and text.

One would hope that in the five years since that study was published, we would have made progress as a civilization, with fewer people so afflicted and more having found better, more positive solutions. You know… such as exercise and healthy eating that boosts health instead of the awful side effects of eating disorders that harms health.

But that’s not the case. With the rising number of sites and their increased functionality, pro-eating-disorder content is unfortunately more widespread than before.

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Livestrong.com discusses The Disturbing Effects of Social Media on Eating Disorders:

1. Increased exposure to information related to dieting and weight loss.

The dieting mentality has become normative in our culture, in part because people flock to social media to publicize their diet, weight-loss strategies, and results. Anyone can post anything on social media, giving unhealthy ideologies like the pro-eating-disorder movement a faux legitimacy.

 

2. A medium for social comparison.

The literature tells us that social comparison affects deficits in self-esteem. Social media — in both name and functionality — is the ideal medium for social comparison, with many individuals using these platforms to share information about their unhealthy diets and body ideals. The misguided hope of this content is to “inspire” thinness (hence the term “thinspiration”).

 

3. The social-media paradox.

Social media seeks to promote connection with others, but for many at risk for or suffering from eating disorders, it supports isolation and withdrawal from real-world relationships. Eating disorders are lonely and isolating illnesses.

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4. Anonymity.

Eating disorders thrive in secrecy. The high-achieving, perfectionistic, people-pleasing individuals who tend to suffer from these complex illnesses often go to great lengths to hide their intense body dissatisfaction and eating disorder behaviors.

In order not to fall victim to eating disorders promoted by social media, consider the following best practices from livestrong.com:

1. Avoid pro-eating-disorder content altogether, no matter your stage of recovery.
2. Engage with recovery-focused eating-disorder content and communities.
3. Consider blogging or sharing your story.
4. Limit your time on social media.
5. Report pro-eating-disorder content to site administrators.

 

Responsible Consumption — of Food and of Information

Undoubtedly, certain aspects of social media promote the development of eating disorders. They even contribute to its maintenance. However, social media can also be a powerful tool in supporting and sustaining recovery, provided it is used responsibly. Peer support and connection with others is possible through social networks. Social media can also provide the right platform for generating relationships and connections, while being an incredible resource for learning. Of course, it is up to each of us to use social media wisely and responsibly.

 

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RESOURCES

ARTICLES:
The Disturbing Effects of Social Media on Eating Disorders, Livestrong.com
Study Examines Pro-Anorexia and Pro-Bulimia Websites, Bloomberg School of Public Health