The other night one of my roommates came to me distraught after learning that her former neighbor, a 16-year-old girl, was gaining popularity on Instagram for managing an anonymous anorexia account. What this entails is her posting pictures of various parts of her body, either clothed or nude, with captions such as “never felt so fat, unattractive, worthless, unwanted and alone in my life. I’m trapped.”
Unfortunately, this type of account is not uncommon on the popular phone app. Countless others post similar photos and have bio lines that state the users starting weight, current weight, and goal weight. One such account has a gun emoji aimed at the current weight number while the goal weight is partnered with a glittery heart.
Instagram is aware of this community and on their official blog, has posted a statement that reads, “Any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning.”
It is normal to want to belong to a community, especially during the teenage and young adult years. However, when a group is promoting self-harm and habits that are detrimental to a person’s health, they need to be taken down.
Instagram is managing this in the best possible way. The company is deleting negative accounts that further promote this destructive thinking. I do not see the removal of these anonymous anorexic accounts, or ones containing other methods of self-harm, as an infringement of a person’s freedom of speech.
According to the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, 90 percent of people affected by anorexia are women between the ages of 12 and 25. Large portions of that range are young girls that are either in middle or high school. So when they are leaving comments such as “OMG amazing how much weight loss difference?” and “U r literally my thinspo!!” on pictures of unhealthily underweight girls, it is Instagram’s duty to delete them.
Comments can go beyond the twisted adoration and envy to cruel manipulation. A user with the account name “Daddysstarvingdolls” has frequented the girl’s Instagram, leaving comments such as “still fat but the gap is better,” then following up with “we are going to turn you into a pretty doll.” These girls need treatment from professionals, not anonymous users endorsing harmful behavior.
Not all that post are in favor of anorexia; they understand the seriousness of the disease and are trying to offer support, promote awareness and assistance in recovery. They remind the girls that they do not have to hurt themselves in such a destructive manner to obtain beauty by leaving positive messages on their photos.
Apps and other forms of technology similar to Instagram have the ability to be entertaining, progressive means of communication that allow people to connect in ways they may not have been able to before. That is what makes it even more saddening to see young women diminishing themselves to a number on a scale and vile people such as “Daddysstarvingdolls” validating that claim.
Instagram needs to continue censoring harmful content and promoting positive awareness so people affected can receive the help they require and deserve.