I recently delved in to the eating disorder community on Instagram. It’s a complex and confusing world, where one careless tap can leave you falling into a place you really never wanted to be.
Many of you may be aware of the ‘pro-ana’ sites and accounts scattered around the internet and unfortunately they seem to be oozing and spreading so nowhere is safe.
However, it’s not ALL bad. If you search hard enough, you will find a plethora of so called recovery accounts. A group of individuals using Instagram as a platform for finding like minded humans, who can listen, understand and support. People post their challenges, achievements and struggles and receive encouragement, advice and praise in return. The kindness and reassurance which almost saturates these posts is remarkable and give me hope that these vulnerable victims of such a horrific disease will receive the boost they need to clamber out of the dark life they’re now in. There have been articles about girls (although there are also some guys knocking around the community, just much fewer – another issue…..) who have recovered thanks to the support and the ability to start enjoying and tracking their food*.
How fabulous! Problem solved, who needs therapists, right?
I couldn’t help but think that this was a little too good to be true….
Rummaging deeper (actually not that much deeper) revealed a darker, more toxic aspect to this seemingly innocent clique.
♦ A number of accounts labelling themselves as “in recovery” are posting photos of small bowls of green vegetables with the caption:
“yummm dinner! I don’t know if this is too much as I ate three rice cakes for lunch?!! Help!”
Now I know, that these people are suffering with a mental illness and have lost the awareness of what is a normal diet, but in my opinion that is no excuse for posting something which is so clearly unhelpful. Even at your most ill, you have a recognition of what might be normal.
♦ In addition, the extent of accounts posting full length photos of themselves, dangerously underweight, but labelling themselves as fat is huge. Again, body dysmorphia is a huge issue for ED sufferers, but so is self comparison and all that these photos do is trigger other members of the community to study themselves and pick out even more flaw than normal.
♦ Numbers are yet another prevalent issue. Some bios consist of stats such as bmi, lowest bmi, number of hospital admissions or NG tubes. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this is necessary? A bio is to give the reader an idea of who you are as a person and numbers should not define you. And again, self comparison becomes an issue.
♦ Many accounts post “TW” (trigger warning for those of you lucky enough to have not stumbled over this genre of accounts) before their post, supposedly giving the reader a chance to skip over the caption if they want. Speaking from experience, all that ‘warning’ does for me is intrigue me further and make me want to read on. Of course, I then feel triggered. It sounds mad but sometimes, you WANT to be triggered, you want an excuse to restrict, over-exercise, purge.
♦ Lies saturate this Instagram body. People who post pictures of food they don’t actually eat, or write about successes which never occurred. They stay underweight and other members of the community are perplexed and upset by the fact they can’t eat all of that without gaining.
So I know that it’s not all bad, but there is a dark angle to this circle of friends. Be aware and don’t believe everything you read. If you know you’re someone who is easily triggered, stay away as you can’t help but draw parallels between your own lives and what you see online.