Hashtags are fun ways to navigate social media channels, especially Instagram. When we search something using a hashtag, we get to see hundreds, sometimes thousands of posts regarding that topic. It can be really fun to navigate these hashtags and find out what other people are posting. It’s like having a custom-made magazine just about the topics that interest you.
Unfortunately, our kids who have eating disorders may find that hashtags are an unhealthy method for furthering their disordered thinking about their bodies, health, and dieting. Just as we don’t want our kids going on “pro ana” websites, we don’t want them looking at “pro ana” Instagram accounts.
Pro ana is an obvious and known topic to avoid, but you may be surprised by the more surreptitious hashtags that promote eating disorders outright, suggest that diet behavior is healthy, and say that eating disorders are impossible to overcome.
Many people who are in recovery for Anorexia use Instagram posts as a way to document their progress, but their ongoing disorder means that these posts can be disturbing even for those of us who have been recovered for years.
Furthermore, there are literally thousands of accounts that actively promote unrealistic methods of diet and exercise to control weight, size, and shape.
A good thing is that Instagram has created community guidelines in an attempt to curtail the dangerous promotion of eating disorders on its platform. For example, there is currently no hashtag for #proana, and if you search for #anorexia, you will be shown this warning message:
This is an important step for Instagram, and we applaud their work towards minimizing the dangers of social media platforms being used to promote eating disorders. Nonetheless, if you click through to “Show posts,” you will see numerous images, quotes, and posts from people who are still suffering from anorexia. These posts can be deeply triggering as well as become learning points and suggestions for maintaining the dangerous disorder. Below are a few we saw today. Please note that we applaud all efforts at recovery, and are not criticizing the posters on Instagram. Our purpose is to warn of the potential dangers even from people who mean well.
Even those of us who are in full recovery and enjoy Instagram often find triggering and upsetting images when we go to see our search results, or if we stumble across a hashtag that seems innocuous, like #health.
Therefore, while your child is in eating disorder recovery, parents should consider eliminating or at least severely curtailing social media from their daily activities. Until our children are fully stable and understand triggers and can overcome the desire to return to disordered behaviors, we need to monitor and restrict their social media activity.
Even seemingly “safe” hashtags such as #anarecovery and #anorexiarecovery may contain triggering posts. Avoid those, as well as #eatingdisorder, #anorexia, #bulimia, etc. It’s not that there are not good posts under those hashtags (in fact, we often post them @MoreLoveOrg), but they simply pose too many dangers to someone who is in active recovery.
For example, below you can see that the top posts for #anarecovery are all food and body-based posts.
This approach continues the obsession with food and body, which is not supportive of full recovery. The posts are typically from people who are on a path of recovery, and we applaud their efforts, but posts like these may inadvertently trigger disordered food and body issues for others.
Save our #EDWarriors from Instagram
There are many, many wonderful and excellent Instagram accounts that are supportive of recovery, but the bottom line is that when a child has an eating disorder, exposure to other people who are as disordered is not advised unless carefully managed by a professional.
This is not the time for permissive parenting – this is the time to take a stand against potentially harmful social messages that can and should be avoided during eating disorder recovery.
Surprisingly dangerous hashtags on Instagram
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