Nov. 14, 2017—
Young women are using social media to promote extreme thinness with selfies
and images depicting bone-protruding bodies. The pictures, posted on Twitter
accounts that use hashtags such as "thinspiration," may push
more young people to try to reach an unhealthy weight, a new study shows.
The 'thinspiration' craze
Popular social media sites allow users to share photos with a wide audience.
The researchers looked at selfies posted by young women with very thin
bodies in various poses. They reviewed 734 images posted on the social
media platforms Twitter, Instagram and WeHeartIt. Users could like or
repost the images.
The images were tagged with "thinspiration," "bonespiration"
and "fitspiration." The study found the first two categories
to show images of women with protruding collarbones, hip bones and spines.
The purpose of these sites is to praise very thin bodies and inspire others
to look the same.
The "fitspiration" category showed images of bodies with more
muscle tone meant to inspire fitness. However, the researchers discovered
that some pictures of extremely thin women popped up here too.
An alarming trend
The study authors fear that social media has increased the exposure of
young women to certain body-type ideals. Other studies show that seeing
images of thin bodies makes viewers feel less satisfied with their own bodies.
Exposure to these images can lead to unhealthy weight control. Experts
are concerned that these social media platforms have now replaced pro-anorexia,
or "pro-ana," websites.
Should this content be blocked? Researchers say banning the hashtags doesn't
seem to work. Hashtags can be tweaked to dodge censorship. Instead, educating
teens about positive body image may help combat the problem.
The study appeared in the
Journal of Eating Disorders.
Eating disorders are a serious health concern. They can drastically change
a person's eating pattern and body weight. Extreme eating disorders
can even be deadly.
Eating disorders often develop during the teen years or young adulthood.
Early signs include obsessing over food, body weight and shape. To learn
more, visit our
Eating Disorders health topic center.