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.
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.