After coming across some fascinating photography and art blogs, I signed up on Tumblr. Unsure about the appropriate etiquette for writing posts, I followed some random, popular blogs. After five minutes of scrolling through the constantly updated posts, I noticed several trends. Images were more popular; especially those of thin, ostensibly wealthy white girls, pot and cigarette smoke as documented by expensive cameras, and emotional (whiny) posts of grammatically incorrect graffiti with phrases like, “Better off now that your gone.” Meaningful content was impossible to find on accounts with tens of thousands of followers, so I followed local news blogs and appreciated the newsbreaks between pictures of rainbow macaroons and long, pointy fingernails.
I noticed another popular Tumblr niche. Hundreds of “thinspiration” blogs that advertise the “glamour” of anorexia and bulimia are frequently re-blogged by popular accounts. “Pro-ana” or “pro-mia,” they call themselves, and post pictures of runway models and selfies taken by severely underweight girls. Between images of sickly-looking bodies are “motivational” phrases like, “eat for the body you want, not the one you have.” These sites aren’t helpful for girls with eating disorders, and dangerous even for girls who don’t.
After reading Tumblr’s community guidelines, I started flagging every pro-eating disorder blog I came across. Among the banned material is “promotion or glorification of self-harm,” which would include those which “embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders.” So why is it, then, that a Google search brings up pages of pro-ana disorder Tumblr blogs? Apparently, as long as they specifically state that they are not glamorizing eating disorders, flags are ignored and the sites are allowed to exist. This means there are pages with dozens of posts depicting unhealthy bodies and starvation-level diet plans—but in their FAQ say that they are “not supporting eating disorders in any way, and urge those who are suffering to get help.” Somehow, Tumblr believes that having a “disclaimer” on a thinspo blog is enough to neutralize its content.
For a site crawling with self-proclaimed social justice warriors, Tumblr does an awful job of regulating its blogs. Its users scuffle back and forth about shoe-shaming, hair-shaming and sex-shaming, but do nothing about the slew of toxic blogs that are actually harmful. The media is already saturated with unhealthy influences, and Tumblr has the opportunity to eliminate some of them. Instead, the site is allowing itself to be a venue for the glamorization of eating disorders.
—Follow Sarah Grace McCarthy on Twitter: @birdy_grace