Someday Melissa’s position as an organization is clear. We know how triggering some images and information can be and we are careful to avoid them. When the film Someday Melissa, the story of an eating disorder, loss and hope was in production, we were vigilant about not including any mention of weights, numbers or any behaviors that might be triggering or could promote disordered behavior. When we post articles on our Facebook and Twitter pages, we are conscious not to share news, blogs or stories that may be contradictory to our commitment to responsible education about eating disorders.
For the past several weeks, there has been a great deal in the media about social media, body image and eating disorders. After the blog site Tumblr was criticized for allowing content that promoted eating disorders and other forms of self-harm, the company announced that they would revise their terms of service to ban active promotion of self-injury and self-harm. Emerging social media photo site Pinterest soon followed suit and changed their terms of service to discourage these practices as well.
Other social networking sites like Facebook have also been scrutinized for their role in influencing body image. A survey by The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt found that 51% of respondents reported that they were more conscious of their body and weight because of seeing photos of themselves and others on the site. 32% also stated that they felt sad when comparing photos of themselves to those of their friends.
However, it is important to emphasize that social media itself does not cause negative body image or eating disorders:
“According to Dr. Andrea Vazzana, clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry and psychiatry at New York University, while evidence shows that even looking once at these sites can raise an individual’s body dissatisfaction, pro-ana pages aren’t likely to cause an eating disorder. But for those who have an eating disorder to begin with, these websites can be deadly.” (CBS News)
Although we know that social media sites have the potential to encourage negative body image and play a role in the development of eating disorders, they can also be used to promote positive and healthy perspectives on eating and bodies. At a recent event at Harvard University, Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani unveiled a new campaign by the magazine to create a global network of blogs and websites that promote positive body image. They support those who are seeking help by providing accurate information on eating disorders as a counter-action to the pro-ED sites.
Every day we see the positive impact that responsible use of social media can have on spreading a message of hope to those struggling with eating disorders. Through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, countless individuals, treatment centers and advocacy groups around the world have learned about Someday Melissa and support our film and organization. Melissa’s story and her dreams for a future are inspiring others to reach for their own “Somedays”.
The irresponsible use of social media to promote triggering and damaging images and information may not stop with these new policies and initiatives, but we will continue the good fight – one social media post at a time.