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Instagram’s support initative for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

The ubiquitous photo app, which has previously come under fire for promoting unrealistic body standards, is providing resources to support users throughout National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

When it comes to those afflicted with eating disorders or body dysmorphia, social media is often a triggering factor – especially when talking Gen Z. Therefore, it’s the moral duty of the biggest online platforms to provide accessible support for those who’re struggling.

Community leaders across Instagram are determined to do just that.

Having recently integrated both general advice and professional help prompts within Facebook for Mental Health Month, Instagram is now pitting its attention on spreading empowering ‘self-love content,’ and supporting vulnerable users throughout National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

In a new blog update, Instagram has outlined how searching for hashtags or topics synonymous with eating disorders and body confidence will trigger a new pop-up system. These prompts will offer to connect users with professional support, and will require an extra action before proceeding to the original search result.

Upon selecting ‘Get Resources,’ users will be connected with contacts for eating disorder experts within their local area, such as Beat in the UK, National Eating Disorder Information Centre in Canada, and the Butterfly Foundation in Australia. Crisis helplines will also be available including, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Veteran’s Crisis Lin, and Trevor Project.

Beyond this, expert advice on building body confidence will also be available through accessible slides built in partnership with the National Eating Disorder Association in the US.

Given that those suffering with eating disorders often do so in secrecy, Instagram has wisely included an option for users ‘concerned about something they see posted and wanting to offer support’ to a friend or family member. This ensures that those who may not seek out help themselves can still be nudged in a healthier direction through links in the DM function.

If you keep up to date with social tech news, you’ll no doubt be aware that Instagram has received previous criticism for failing to regulate content galmourising eating disorders and extreme dieting. Though broad measures were in place to deter potentially harmful searches of all natures before this week’s update, stamping out a range of sensitive topics at once has proved a difficult task.

That’s in part thanks to the nature of its discover page. As with TikTok’s ‘For You’ function, an internal algorithm shows us more of what we initially search for – meaning those in a downward spiral of searching triggering hashtags are privy to more of the same.

Upping the ante in addressing the issue directly this week, Instagram is also working with influencers and community leaders to publish Reels that ‘encourage positive body image, push back against weight stigma and harmful sterotypes, and show that all bodies are worthy and deserve to be celebrated.’

It’s truly refreshing to see that, despite the undeniable popularity of pro-weight-loss content on social media, the central players are no longer ignoring the young and impressionable users it has the potential to endanger.

There’s definitely a growing sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of users online, and this update is another promising addition.