‘Bonespiration’ is the scary new social media hashtag

Marie Claire Dorking

A seriously worrying new hashtag celebrating extreme thinness is sweeping social media.

Teenage girls battling eating disorders are avoiding an online ban on pictures tagged “thinspiration” by searching for even more damaging pictures of “bonespiration,” a new study has found.

Research by the University of Exeter and published in the Journal of Eating Disorders has found that hundreds of young women are using Instagram and Twitter to search for and praise anorexic bodies using the hashtag “bonespiration.”

Catherine Talbot, a psychologist at Exeter University Medical School, and her team analyzed 734 images that used the hashtag and found that just over a quarter contained protruding hip bones, 2 percent showed protruding ribs, and just over a fifth (22 percent) collarbones, while 6 percent showed the spine.

Back in 2012, social media sites banned the use of certain hashtags, such as “thinspiration” and “thinspo” that could be seen as promoting eating disorders.

But users of the sites have found a way to work round the ban by varying the hashtags used, and the research team revealed they had discovered 140,000 images on Instagram linked to “bonespiration.”

Commenting on the findings, research leader Talbot said: “Anorexia and extreme weight loss is a serious social and medical problem.”

“To tackle this social contagion we need to be aware of the social media platforms being used by young people — mainly girls and young women — which is encouraging extreme weight loss. This behavior could seriously damage their psychological and physical health.”

“Teenagers need to be taught about positive body image in schools, and we need to build resilience.”
Girls are using social media to search for the hashtag “bonespiration.” [Photo: Pexels]

Girls are using social media to search for the hashtag “bonespiration.” [Photo: Pexels]

The concern about the power of these images has previously been highlighted by a study carried out in January by researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

The research found that women posting “fitspiration” posts on Instagram are more likely to be at risk of eating disorders.

“Bonespiration” certainly isn’t the only social media hashtag to spark concern. First came the thigh gap, which was swiftly followed by the bikini bridge and the A4 paper challenge.

Most recently, ribcage bragging saw a whole host of celebrities and social media influencers taking to their feeds to share images of their proudly protruding ribcages.

Thankfully, not all social media body trends are on the scary side, and last year we reported on the #MermaidThighs trend, which encourages women to embrace their natural body shape, touching thighs and all.

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