by Brittany Cummings
When it comes to the media, it’s a constant, overwhelming force in our daily lives, and it’s something most acknowledge as an incredible influence. It’s one of the first things many people look at in the morning, and while entertaining and informative, it can also be dangerous. We realize that we live in a place where when it comes to the internet there isn’t much censorship; erotic or grotesque pictures are everywhere, and on most sites all you have to do is click an agreement that you are over 18 to look at them. But what happens when by that single click you unlock a section of the media that is supportive, but of the wrong things?
With the spike in media’s role, there is an alarming increase in the amount of images a young female will see daily of this ideal standard of beauty. Even worse, #thinspiration has been a major trend on twitter, tumblr, and pintrest lately. This is a blogging form of media where a simple click of the “follow” button will replace your newsfeed with thinspiration (visual inspiration dedicated to inspiring people to be their “ideal self,” which in this case is skinny). Targeted toward young females, simply following a thinspo blog will replace your newsfeed with an endless amount of pictures of girls with jutting hipbones, protruding collarbones, and thigh gaps.
Most thinspiration blogs do not focus on being healthy, but rather on reaching their UGW (Ultimate Goal Weight), and to take any extreme to reach it. These sites give tips on how to win over the feeling of hunger and how to trick your body or your family into thinking that you are eating. They tell you that eating is just a weakness that you have to overcome, and unless you faint, puke, or die, you need to keep running.
Hidden behind the façade of promoting only healthy weight loss so their blogs don’t get shut down, some of the posts are still tagged Pro-Ana or Pro-Mia to gain followers (nicknames for girls who are pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia). Some blogs even go as far as to encourage other girls to choose anorexia as a lifestyle choice, instead of acknowledging it as a mental illness. These leaders remind them to not eat with catch phrases like “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” and “if your body hurts, you’re doing it right.”
Not all of these blogs dedicated toward changing your body image are bad: besides thinspiration, there is fitspiration, which encourages clean eating and exercise. When you follow a fitspo blog, you still are getting a stream of photos on your newsfeed, but this time the girls are in workout gear, lifting weights and encouraging girls to eat clean. Photos of fruits and vegetables are added to the mix, as well as a variety of different workout prompts. They tell you not to restrict eating, but to eat the right things, and to allow your body to recover.
They offer good support, but even these blogs have raised questions on how much focus they put on getting thin and how they can still be triggering for people struggling with an eating disorder. They encourage a healthy lifestyle, but many of them cross the line by posting pictures of girls that are just a bit too skinny to really be achieved by a well-balanced diet.
Because most blogs don’t blatantly encourage any sort of starvation, it’s hard to shut them down or pinpoint the difference between encouragement and self-harm. Sites have gone a slight distance to shut these down, but find difficulty figuring out where users are crossing the line. Even worse, there is such a following that once a blog gets shut down, there is always another one that gets created to replace it.
When we don’t initiate a conversation with an individual, the first thing we see and therefore know of a person is how they look. We’re living in a world of vanity where beauty tends to overshadow personality, and when it comes to impressionable adolescents, they see this and are learning that it’s more important than it really is. The wrong message is being sent to them that being beautiful is the best quality to have, and that being beautiful means being skinny.
Individuals are looking toward these blogging sites to find someone who is like them, someone to look up to who understands their doubts about their bodies. It is in our human nature to seek out relationships with others. We want to be acknowledged, supported, and admired. That is why it’s getting increasingly dangerous to live in the light of a media that puts so much focus on defining worth through appearance.
They are reaching out to try and be accepted. And because of the media, it’s easier to find the wrong kind of support.