EDMONDS, WA--(Marketwire - Aug 3, 2012) - While he applauds recent efforts to ban pro-anorexia content from Pinterest and Tumblr, two of the most popular social media sites on the internet today, author and psychologist Dr. Gregory Jantz of the eating disorder website Caring Online says that such bans can have only a very limited role in lowering the prevalence of eating disorders.
"Of course it's encouraging when a company refuses to host web content that portrays unhealthy eating patterns and extreme dieting as positive and desirable behaviors," says Dr. Jantz. "But our society faces a much more important and much more difficult challenge in changing the messages that we send to girls and women about their bodies and about how good health is defined."
Online content that celebrates disordered eating as a valid lifestyle choice is nothing new. "Pro-ana" and "pro-mia" website, which offer encouragement to people who view anorexia and bulimia as acceptable ways to pursue physical perfection, have been around since the early days of the internet. Using social media to spread these harmful messages is merely one of the newer developments in the pro-ana/pro-mia subculture.
Pinterest, which bills itself as an online "pinboard" where users can post pictures and videos relating to topics that interest them, has exploded in popularity, becoming the internet's third most popular social media site less than two years after its creation. Prior to its policy change, Pinterest had become host to collections of "thinspiration" photos -- pictures that depict very thin or even emaciated girls and women, holding them up as examples of ideal female bodies.
Pinterest's new "acceptable use policy," announced in April, prohibits content that "creates a risk of harm, loss, physical or mental injury, emotional distress, death, disability, disfigurement, or physical or mental illness to yourself [or] to any other person..."
Pinterest's policy revision mirrors the decision made two months early by Tumblr, a "micro-blogging" and social networking site, to ban "self-harm" blogs. Tumblr no longer allows content that promotes anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation and suicide.
However, Dr. Jantz points out that the idealization of unrealistically thin bodies has long been rampant on the internet and was prevalent in the pre-internet media as well.