Thinspo, Tumblr and The Naked Truth

Last week, Tumblr announced that they were implementing a new policy on self harm, with particular attention to the rapidly expanding “thinspo” community.

“Thinspo” short for “thinspiration” is the term applied to the glorification and promotion of eating disorders. In recent years, thinspo sites have been criticised repeatedly in the press, but their presence is ever expanding. Tumblr’s latest move is a step in the right direction towards dealing with this worrying trend.

In the statement issued on Thursday, Tumblr announced that they were adding an “Active Promotion of Self-Harm” clause to their content policy, advising users not to post content which “actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm.” The clause goes on to explain that posts which encourage readers to “cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counseling or treatment for depression or other disorders.”

The statement goes on to explain that a users will receive a public service style announcement when they search for certain terms, including “anorexia”, “anorexic”, “bulimia”, “bulimic”, “thinspiration”, “thinspo”, “proana”, “purge”, “purging”, advising that eating disorders can be life threatening, and advising where they can receive help.

It’s a bold move from the blogging platform. Tumblr’s decision to deal with sites like these in this way is brave. As the statement says early on, they are keen to support and defend freedom of speech, but it’s a fine line between free speech and letting sections of their site actively encourage dangerous behaviours.

Thinspiration sites are a real issue, and “inspire” thousands of young people to lose weight in an unhealthy way every day. In Gok Wan’s latest series “The Naked Truth” (an absolute must watch by the way) he explored the dramatic impact that the internet, and sites like these have on our country’s teens. Gok met 15 year old Paige who was spending hour after hour examining online images of airbrushed women, and putting pressure on herself to achieve an unrealistic image of perfection.

In the series, Gok revealed that 70% of teens don’t like what they see in the mirror. Not a suprising figure really. As he explains, when he was a teen, he felt pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain person, and now, with the ability to carry the internet around in your pocket, the opportunity for teens to subject themselves to “perfection” is never-ending, and that pressure to be perfect has increase dramatically.

Gok Wan has been working on promoting his “body confidence classes,” encouraging the government to roll out the scheme to schools across the country, a move I wholeheartedly support. Encouraging and supporting the nation’s teens is an important part of dealing with the sickness of stigma connected with mental health issues in our country. But even if the scheme is rolled out to schools, what sort of teachers would be able to deliver these classes in a way that teens would listen? There were only a handful of inspirational teachers throughout my school education, and I was open to accepting advice and support from teachers.

There must be some way of combatting the issues that these young people are facing on a daily basis. Ideally, we’d have multiple Gok’s to go around schools, spreading the word, and supporting the young people who need it (possibly a business venture there?). Or we’d all be able to pop him in our pocket and have him call us his “gorgeous girl” every time we were feeling a bit down about the way we looked. I champion Gok Wan’s efforts to make being a teen easier, but I think we need a bigger movement than that. It’s about reforming society’s views of what we should be and railing against the every day prejudices, and embracing what we are.

I wish I had a magic wand to make it all better, but I don’t. I just hope that enough people saw, and were moved and educated by The Naked Truth to take the teens in their lives to one side and start to make a change. It only takes one thing to make an explosive chain reaction of difference.

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