Should Thinspo (And These Other Hashtags) Be Banned From Instagram?

thinspo picture

Instagram user @thinkbones captioned this picture “The perfect arms” with tags like anawishes and starve. | Source: Instagram

One of the biggest things about Instagram is the use of hashtags in picture captions. These hashtags are the best way to get more eyes on your photos, since they are easily searchable. Hashtags are so popular on Instagram that I was really surprised to find out a few months ago that some them weren’t working. I started to wonder if Instagram was banning hashtags, but a quick search online didn’t show anything, so I figured it must have just been a fluke.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I posted a selfie of me being lazy and put #bum in the caption. I quickly noticed that #bum had no posts in it… and a little bit more research showed me that, yeah, Instagram has been banning hashtags. Once you use a banned hashtag, your image not only doesn’t show up in that hashtag search, but it also doesn’t show up in ANY hashtag search, even ones that are not banned. And while some of them are understandable (by “bum” I meant lazy, but I guess it could mean “butt” too), some of the choices of banned hashtags are really weird.

The Data Pack recently came up with an unofficial list of banned hashtags on Instagram. I’m not thrilled about a lot of the choices, because some of them are pretty lame. For example, #Instagram and #photography are banned because co-founder Mike Krieger feels that they are too “generic” and don’t add enough “value” to the site… um what? But some of the banned terms make perfect sense to me, like the fact that anything pro-anorexia or thinspo. 

We have previously written about Tumblr attempting to ban thinspiration posts, but if you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last few months, you can see that, uh, that didn’t really do anything. Pro-anorexia and thinspiration sites and images are still going strong, especially on social media sites like Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.

In case you need to be caught up, pro-ana and thinspo refer to anything that encourages girls to have unhealthy behaviors about eating. You might go on Tumblr and see pictures of girls who are so skinny that their bones are visible, with captions like, “Work for it!” or “I wish I could look like this!” You might see memes with Kate Moss’s infamous quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” These images, along with tips on how to stop eating or how to get a thigh gap, are all over the Internet. They can obviously be extremely harmful to girls who struggle with eating disorders, but they can also give any girl unhealthy expectations about weight and food. The message is that skinny is the only way to be and this encourages girls to do the wrong thing when it comes to diet and exercise.

Instagram user @fatselfharmgirl uploaded this picture with hashtags that includes proana. | Source: Instagram

Instagram user @fatselfharmgirl uploaded this picture with hashtags that includes proana. | Source: Instagram

That being said, I’m pretty stoked that Instagram has been trying to ban hashtags that encourage thinspo and pro-ana tips (I believe they started doing this in April, which they announced in their guidelines). But do I think it’s working? No. Not at all. 

Lately, it seems that whenever I go on Instagram and take a look at the popular page, there is always at least one image encouraging exercise or dieting. Not all of them are particularly thinspo (some of them actually do have a good message to be healthy), but an uncomfortable amount of them do fall under the pro-ana category. Personally, I hate to see this kind of thing. I think exercising regularly and eating a diet that isn’t full of sugar and snacks is great– obviously being healthy is very important! – but I don’t think that encouraging girls to be as skinny as they can be is the right message. We get enough of this from Hollywood and the media… do we really need to be bombarded with this message while innocently scrolling through Instagram also?

So while I think it’s great that Instagram is trying to put a stop to this unhealthy obsession with weight and body image, I do think they might need to work a little bit harder at it. One of the biggest and most thriving “communities” on Instagram is the weight loss community. Search hashtags like #fitness, #fitnessaddict, #weightloss, #weightlosstips and #fitspo and you’ll find millions of posts. There are thousands and thousands of Instagram accounts dedicated solely to losing weight. While Instagram has banned hashtags like #thinspo and #thinspiration, there are still plenty of ways to get around that.

Plus, as the Huffington Post points out, they seem to be putting a lot of energy into banning other random hashtags. They say, “…the banned terms include over 65 terms that include the f-word. Sixty-five. Yet, there are only five pro-ana terms blocked? Maybe banning things like #th1nspo and #proanna would be too extreme, and to be fair, Instagram did not block the search for #fck, but what about obvious variations like #proanatips or the simple #thin? Both hashtags still produce frightening results.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not thrilled with this unofficial list of banned hashtags. I understand banning porn-y words like “butt,” “boobs” and “nude,” but banning any hashtag that has the f-word in it seems a tad bit extreme. Also, banning simple terms like “shirt,” “iPhone,” “ilovemyinstagram,” “popular” and “photography” just seems ridiculous and almost a bit like censorship. Let’s focus on banning terms that send out harmful messages rather than ones that a few people deem boring, okay?

Do you think thinspo and pro-anorexia tips and hashtags should be banned from Instagram? Do you think Instagram should be banning hashtags at all? What do you think about the list? Tell me in the comments.


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  • Rachel Miller

    I think that more social media sites should start monitoring what people post on their websites. Hashtags like thinspo and proana are promoting eating disorders and making it seem more acceptable to the young teenagers who use these hashtags. Anorexia and other eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and people should get help with their disorder instead of sharing their ‘inspirations’ for other people to see.

  • Kiwi

    I’m very very very skinny and looking at thinspo blogs really helps me accept myself, skinny people get bullied and need ecnouragement too 🙁
    I don’t like proana or mia blogs though, I wish people would support skinny girls the way they support fat girls and not by glamorizing unhealthy eating habits (or not eating at all)

  • Andrea

    Yes because it teaches young girls unrealistic and unhealthily image on your body instead of accepting your self

  • Jojo

    People don’t understand how serious anorexia is. They just think it’s people who get to be skinny -_-

  • Lou

    Thanks for this article. I was searching for why none of my hashtags worked and noticed that I did use the word #instagram in my comment. I guess I’ll take another pic and use different hashtags to see if my hashtags start working again.

  • Anonymous

    No. These tags help me with my ed. I am NOT pro ana.
    I just think that if I didn’t have instagram or tumblr I wouldn’t
    Be coping very well with my ed. No I’m not going to go to a therapist because I don’t want to get better.. So i think instagram should keep them… But I have an eating disorder so my opinion on this is obviously distorted.

    • Recovered

      If you don’t want to get better you’re obviously not coping… The first time I saw a therapist they asked me if I was on instagram/tumblr anything and told me to shut them down right away, even recovery blogs

  • Mustafa

    loving the before and after pics!! dude I went tughorh never failing and then after I hit my goal weight.. Boom I was big again! I’m always up and down man, but now I know it’s ok to fail once in awhile because I can’t live my whole life with out eating something unhealthy My journey is a little slower starting off this time around, but I’m hoping it is going to last! I have been told that I should be a motivational speaker before too.. I think we have alot in common! I need to get Halo Reach

  • Jess

    Thank you so much for this article. I know that anorexia is a serious case and more needs to be done. You have inspired me to let my voice be heard on this topic. I completely agree and I think these hashtags should definitely be banned.