Eating Disorders Under the Influence of Social Media

Visual Social Media effects on eating disorders

Being a millennial, I must admit I am very behind on most of the social media trends. Recently, upon pressure from my peers, I decided to see what this “TikTok” was all about and if it was worth all of the hype.

To my discomfort, the first video that popped up on the popular app was a video of a girl eating ice accompanied by sounds of crying. After some more digging, I found many other videos promoting eating disorders.

“TikTok” is home to over 1.5 billion users. 60% percent of the app’s U.S. users are between the ages of 16-24. At 1.5 billion users, the odds are high that a percentage of these users are struggling with an eating disorder or food anxiety [1]. With that said, someone accidentally coming across a video of a girl eating ice cubes and openly promoting anorexia can be extremely triggered by this.

There are two sides to this story. The first being, of course, free speech. It is not the responsibility of TikTok to monitor and filter all of the videos that come across their platform.

As the user, you understand that some videos may be triggering to you. It is your own responsibility to take care of yourself and your well-being. If you come across a video that you are upset by, simply move on to the next video or stop using the app altogether.

On the opposite side of the argument, is the fact TikTok’s guidelines strictly prohibit any type of self-harm being posted by users. The guidelines go so far to even explicitly state, “content that promotes eating habits that are likely to cause health issues is also not allowed on the platform [2].”

TikTok requests users who come across prohibited content such as this, to report it immediately. But how many of these videos go unreported and slip through the cracks? Is a video of a girl eating ice cubs (while promoting anorexia) really considered to be conflicting with their guidelines?

On one hand, yes, as this is non-directly influencing others to take part in your pro-anorexia ways. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you may find yourself in an extremely vulnerable state, being persuaded more easily than you may normally.

Woman Checking TikTokOther similar videos show users sleeping all day to avoid eating and fasting for hours. On the other hand, these users are not explicitly coming out and saying, using the expression, “try this at home.”

Not only is content promoting anorexia all over this app, but it is also a factor that this content can randomly pop up upon signing on. From personal experience, I was signed into TikTok for all of five seconds before coming across the ice cube video.

So what can you do about this? You can post your own videos, promoting healthy eating habits and body positivity, and tag us at EatingDisorderHope on TikTok and Instagram.

Regardless of if the pro-anorexia content is TikTok’s responsibility or not, videos such as these can have an everlasting harmful effect on someone battling an eating disorder. It is our mission to put more videos out there, empowering body positivity!


References:

[1] 20 Tiktok Stats For Marketers: Tiktok Demographics, Statistics, & Key Data

20 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know: TikTok Demographics & Key Data

[2] Community Guidelines
https://www.tiktok.com/community-guidelines?lang=en

[3] Tiktok Is Filled With Pro-eating Disorder Content, Despite Its Own Rules
Cameron Wilson – https://www.buzzfeed.com/cameronwilson/tiktok-eating-disorder-videos-algorithm-for-you-page


About the Author:

Hannah Roesler HeadshotHannah Roesler is a graduate from Fordham University and currently working and living in New York City. Hannah is originally from Spring Lake, NJ and often goes home on the weekends in the summer to enjoy the beach. She struggled with laxative abuse throughout the majority of her college and several post-college years. She is currently in recovery and working as the Eating Disorder Hope Special Projects Coordinator. Her hobbies include SoulCycle and running both competitively and for leisure. Read Hannah’s inspirational eating disorder recovery story!


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published March 20, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on March 20, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.