Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest have all banned so-called “thinspirational” images–but has it really helped? That’s the question many news outlets, including New York Daily News, Jezebel, and Mashable are asking.
But while the question may be on everybody’s lips, the answers are far from forthcoming. “I think it’s too soon to tell [if the banning of thinspo images will have a large impact on the pro-ana community],” Lynn S. Grefe, MA, President and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Both Pinterest and Tumblr have been working with NEDA to ban pro-ana content.
“I really have to applaud [Pinterest and Tumblr] for working with us and for making the effort,” Grefe said. “I think it’s huge that they did it. It needed to be done but a lot more needs to be done.”
Part of the problem, Grefe explains, is that pro-anorexic communities can develop what she calls a “secret language.” If tags like “thin,” “thinspo,” and “pro-ana,” get banned, users intent on self-harm will surely make up new ones. Failing that, they can always find a new social media site or online community.
“I actually went to the justice department about [Pro-Ana] sites years ago,” Grefe tells me. “But you can’t control it. Anybody can create a website. If you ban [pro-anorexia sites in the United States], then you start getting the same sites popping up in other countries that everyone can still access.”
Grefe added that while she hopes Tumblr and Pinterest’s new policies will make a positive impact on the self-harm community, she doesn’t know what will help to completely rid the internet of such sites. “If I knew the answer to that, we wouldn’t be in this position.”
So, if you can’t stem the flow of pro-anorexic content online, why not go straight to the source?