Late last week, popular blogging site Tumblr decided to take a stand against blogs that seem to support harmful behaviors, such as starving to stay thin, binging and purging, cutting and even suicide. It published a draft policy, asking for Tumblr community feedback, which was swift and strong.
More than 25,000 responses show Tumblr as a camp divided on this issue. Most came from young women with eating disorders. Some support the new policy: "Pro-anorexia blogs are the most triggering and harmful thing ever and I would feel much safer on tumblr if they went away," said one person. Others opposed it: "Sorry tumblr but this is the stupidest idea you have ever come up with and I’m so disappointed," wrote another. Both say they are anorexics.
One thing is certain: Tumblr has attracted a community of people — mostly young girls — who don't eat. While some bloggers talk about their struggles to fight eating disorders, others celebrate their increasing thigh gaps.
Tumblr said in its follow-up post that the most common question asked if people who just "talk" about their experiences would be banned.
The company announced that it won't allow blogs "dedicated to triggering self-harm," but won't remove blogs that encourage people dealing with these conditions or those that use their blogs to share their experiences. Staff will review each blog in question and not suspend them using an automated function such as the presence of certain keywords or tags.
Tumblr has not explained how it will distinguish a harmful blog from a helpful one, saying only that "they will do their best." But what is supportive for one sufferer can trigger harmful behavior in another.
"I was scared to death to even go on those sites," Danielle Caputo, a 20-year-old college student at James Mason University in Virginia, said. She battled an eating disorder throughout high school and has now been healthy for two years. She attributes her success to a 12-step program and now is the East Coast representative for Rewrite Beautiful, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit bringing information about eating disorders to schools.
"Readers are sure to ask who's making these decisions — just some random Tumblr employee?" Caputo asked. She said Tumblr should hire a team of doctors, psychologists or other professionals who specialize in eating disorders and other harmful behaviors to review the blogs and develop appropriate criteria.
And as for Tumblr users who claim these self-harm blogs are helpful, Caputo said, "Of course they're going to say that — they're in denial!"