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'Pro-anorexic' bloggers descend on Pinterest

Ersler Dmitry/Thinkstock

The Internet has long been a boon to women with eating disorders looking not for help, but for "pro-anorexic" encouragement to get or stay thin.

Now, Pinterest, the new social media site devoted to the sharing of images, appears to be the next platform for the worrying trend. Some members devote their pages to images of skinny women with jutting hipbones, hectoring diet mantras and more than a hint of self-harm.

One code-word to watch for is "thinspo," an abbreviation of "thinsporation" according to the Urban Dictionary.

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Amid posts of very skinny women are admonishments like "Because when you cheat the only person that loses is you," which may sound as innocuous as a Weight Watchers slogan, but it's paired with a despairing (and thin) young women, head in hands, sitting next to empty junk food packages.

While there are occasional disapproving comments from pinners' friends, many posts appear to be strictly aspirational.

According to The Atlantic's Rebecca Greenfield, this glorification of dieting and eating disorders has infiltrated Pinterest after being the target of a crackdown on Tumblr.

"The 'Tumblrization of Pinterest' is now complete, with 'thinspo' bloggers setting up camp on the site, as we suspected they might after Tumblr announced its crackdown on these sorts of self-harm blogs," she writes. "...This stuff has existed since the dawn of the Internet. And, with Pinterest working a lot like Tumblr, it's no surprise the movement has begun to populate this up-and-arrived social network. The only mystery here is, how will Pinterest deal with it?"

Ms. Greenfield says "Pinterest does not appear to have guidelines to deal with this burgeoning issue."

Tumblr only instituted its policy a few weeks ago, she says. The policy, in part: "Don't post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or injure themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seeking counselling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions," she reports, adding that she is waiting for a response from Pinterest.

Does the glorification of ultra-skinny role models pose a particular threat to the physical and mental health of young girls and women? When does the inspirational photo pinned to the fridge of a dieter cross the line?

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