Despite controversy, this news earlier this week was so encouraging for me.
Now anyone found to be running vile Pro-Ana or ‘Thinspiration’ websites in France may be landed with a prison sentence (of up to one year) or at best a hefty fine of up to ten thousand euros. I’m really pleased that it is now being recognised that eating disorders can be influenced and started online, and I’m hoping that the threat of punishment may deter some sites from operating as they do.
Although this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, I’ve got a couple of concerns. Why can’t we do something like this in the UK? And perhaps more importantly why aren’t internet providers (Google and Social Media sites) taking any responsibility in this globally? When I spoke to my MP he told me he had campaigned relentlessly in parliament to legislate against the internet providers themselves allowing harmful content to be seen online – but to no avail.
Charity Beat rightly said that really what we want to do is encourage people to pro-recovery sites (well, you’re already here!!) to feel understood and listened to rather than turning to sites and forums full of people who are poorly and may make you poorly (or worse) as a consequence. An eating disorder often thrives on tips and validation from others – both things which these sites provide. “We want people to be influenced by pro-recovery sites instead” said Mary George. Of course I agree – that’s why I do what I do.
Another concern the charity raised is that many ‘Pro-Ana’ sites are run by people who are suffering themselves. Or rather they are run BY an eating disorder – which from experience I know can encourage you to try and enforce your way of living on others and look at people who are ‘normal’ as ‘fat’ and ‘weak’ for not ‘achieving’ what you have. It’s difficult for others (and probably for the law) to separate a person and their actions from their mental illness.
The thing is, I would NEVER have gone that far. I might have preached about calories and looked upon anyone eating a healthy-sized meal with disdain, but I wouldn’t have wanted people to be ill. Clearly there are other mental health issues to be addressed when it comes to people who run these sites – and there certainly has to be some malice recognised in the practise of making others poorly. Additionally (and more frighteningly) some sites are run by people who don’t have eating disorders. These people in my opinion are actually responsible for manslaughter – so this law does cover them in some way.
Whatever your opinion on this law, I think it’s important to be positive about the fact that action is finally being taken in some form. It’s a step in the right direction, even if you think that France hasn’t made exactly the right choice in what they are doing.
What I’d like to see is the UK (and other countries) taking Pro-Ana and Thinspo sites much more seriously – and recognising in the process that prevention is much better than cure. I’d also like to see Google, Twitter, Facebook and the like take responsibility and start removing harmful content – because whilst I’ve never been on a Pro-Ana website (and would never, ever go on one) all the time I’m bombarded with images on social media and in the news which make me feel bad.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinions on this.
Tough Cookie is a blog for support and inspiration during recovery from Anorexia. Eating disorder recovery can be tough – but so are you!