Social media has long been the bane of anyone with less-than-stellar self esteem. But three popular platforms are working to change that.
In honor of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the US, Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok each launched new policies and features aimed at providing support for users affected by negative body image or an eating disorder.
While Instagram outwardly rejects content promoting or encouraging self-harm and eating disorders (and blurs potentially triggering images), the social network remains a hotbed of unrealistic ideals of beauty.
“We’ve heard from experts that we would support people more if we made available dedicated resources to cope with eating disorders or body dissatisfaction,” parent company Facebook said in an announcement. “Which is why we are introducing new resources specific to body image issues.” That includes contacts for local eating disorder hotlines in Canada, the UK, and Australia, as well as advice on building body confidence from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) in the US.
If someone queries terms related to disordered eating, Instagram will share external resources first, before showing search results. The same goes for sharing information or if a concerned user wants to offer digital support. “In the coming weeks, we’ll also make it easier to connect with friends in the moment by adding the ability to message on Instagram directly from the resources,” Facebook said.
In honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 22-28), Instagram enlisted community leaders Mik Zazon, James Rose, and Kendra Austin to share Reels encouraging positive body image, pushing back against weight stigma and harmful stereotypes, and showing that “all bodies are worthy and deserve to be celebrated.”
Popular among children and teenagers, TikTok has come under fire for cyberbullying: A 2020 report suggests the video-sharing platform censored users with an “abnormal body shape,” “ugly facial looks,” an “obvious beer belly,” and other aesthetic qualities. Now, in a major step toward inclusivity, TikTok is rolling out new features to “provide support to anyone struggling with an eating disorder.” Starting this week, when someone searches for #edrecovery, #proana, or other related phrases, the site will highlight the NEDA helpline and information about treatment options.
“We’re constantly inspired by stories of our community members lifting up one another and supporting those who are affected by body image and eating disorders,” Tara Wadhwa, director of policy for TikTok US, said in a statement. “To aid these conversations, we’re introducing new resources to provide access to help from expert organizations directly from our app.”
Look for expert tips on how to identify negative self-talk, think about your own positive attributes and strengths, or support a struggling friend, as well as permanent public service announcements via hashtags like #whatieatinaday, #emotionaleatingtips, #bingerecovery, and others. This week in particular, TikTok is inviting its community to discuss issues related to food, exercise, and body image; visit the Discover page to learn more about NEDAwareness and warning signs and symptoms of an eating disorder.
Pinterest has been battling eating disorders and self-harm since 2012, when it finally removed pro-anorexia pins. Nearly a decade later, the firm is going even further to support people, raise awareness, and build communities of recovery.
“Our role is to help people find the resources they need from a professional, and we’re making it easier to reach those experts when they need it,” according to a company blog post, highlighting a fresh feature that sends users searching for eating disorder keywords directly to the NEDA website.
Pinterest is also donating ad credits to encourage people to tune into NEDAwareness Week events, and story pins will be used to generate awareness, along with a feature educating folks about eating disorders communication and recovery on the Today tab.
“A positive and more inspired internet is a better place to be for the world,” the blog said. “And that means continuing to work hard and maintain Pinterest as a place for positivity.”