It’s a trend that experts call horrifying: disturbing pictures and hashtags being posted on social media sites of bone thin bodies.
Advocates have been working to quash the terrifying trend for years, but experts say it’s now morphing and parents need to know.
When you watch the video above, we want to warn you: some of the pictures are graphic and may be most troubling for those at risk of an eating disorder.
We decided to do a quick search of social media and it was shockingly easy to find photos of women whose bodies look downright skeletal. They have hashtags like “bonespiration,” meant to promote being bone thin and emaciated.
“You see a lot of things that are posted with the intent of glamorizing the disorder,” Erika Lee, who is an eating disorder survivor, told us.
Erika says these posts are worrisome. She showed us her own ultra-thin pictures from when she was battling her illness. She used to post online too, which, she says, prolonged her recovery. “It was like the secret rulebook of here's how to get away with this,’ Erika says.
Years ago similar tags like: “thinspiration,” “probulimia,” and “proanorexia” prompted Instagram to ban accounts and hashtags that promote self-harm.
Experts say, the problem is, as soon as one social media site catches up to a hashtag, the posters just change them.
“It is a bit like whack a mole. A lot of the social media platforms are doing their best to deal with this content in a responsible way, but due to the volume of it and the number of users who are at risk, it is very difficult to manage,” Claire Mysko, with the National Eating Disorders Association told us.
Experts say for the 30 million people in the United States who suffer an eating disorder, just seeing the posts could trigger them to fall deeper into an illness.
“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis. People who are struggling in a very, very dark place,” Mysko says.
The National Eating Disorders Association works with social media sites.
When we looked up “bonespiration” on Instagram, for example, we got a warning saying that the tags “often encourage behavior that can cause harm, and even lead to death.”
The site also offers help. The key, Mysko says, is support. “If you're compelled to post content like this to connect with others please know that there are resources available.”
After getting treatment for her eating disorder, Erika is happy that she’s living a healthy lifestyle.
“There's nothing glamorous about starving yourself until you're emaciated,” Lee says.
Twitter and Instagram, where we found most of these posts, did not respond to our requests for a comment.
If you’d like to get more information about how to get help with an eating disorder or have a friend or a loved one who is making posts like the ones described here, go to the National Eating Disorders website for more information: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/