Combating Eating Disorders—with Instagram

This gives Instagram Help Center a whole new meaning.

Navigate through the troubleshooting and support section of Instagram's desktop site and you'll find the usual suspects: reset a password, community guidelines, report an impersonation account. But nestled between Sharing Photos Safely and Privacy Policy, you’ll find something not like the others: About Eating Disorders.

On the Help Center page, Instagram offers information such as potential warning signs of an eating disorder, tips for approaching a friend about the topic and resources for finding professional help. The page comes in conjunction with new, tougher guidelines prohibiting self-harm images and accounts.

While social media platforms have long taken an proactive stance against user content that discusses harming themselves or others, especially specific mentions of suicide, self-mutilation or bullying, Instagram has moved to include "thinspiration" posts promoting anorexia and bulimia in that self-harm category.

According to the site, these posts will no longer be searchable on the platform and are subject to Terms of Service violation flagging by community members. In future Instagram app updates, content that has hashtags associated with self-harm will come with a warning:


The Atlantic writes about how Instagram is helping recovering anorexia and bulimia patients in Overcoming an Eating Disorder—with Instagram

"Troubling 'pro-ana' (as in anorexia) posts that promote disordered eating with glamorized photos of emaciated bodies and words of encouragement from fellow sufferers have long existed on social media and elsewhere online," The Atlantic’s Molly Mirhashem writes. "As an image-based platform, Instagram lends itself to tendencies often associated with eating disorders, such as an obsession with physical appearance and constant comparisons to others’ bodies and diets."

But recovering anorexics or bulimics are using their Instagram accounts as both a food journal and a platform to share their journey from disordered eating to healthy eating habits in recovery. 

"Recovery accounts show another side of these disorders entirely: the hard work of getting better," the magazine writes.



Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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