Friday, March 09, 2012

Tumblr Follows Suit

With the fashion industry continuously working on and improving the body image being conveyed to young girls and women, other industries are taking notice and doing their part.

The fashion industry has long been scrutinized for their portrayal of unhealthy body image through both runway shows and editorials. In the last few years, organizations associated within this industry have made it a point to begin creating and enforcing policies to ensure healthy models are being used by designers and magazines. As of a recent, an extremely widespread social media platform has decided to take action as well by removing self-harm content and providing Public Service Announcements in place. This platform is Tumblr.

Tumblr is one amongst the social media platforms currently dominating the internet. The Tumblr homepage has a daily counter showing how many blogs and posts total, as well as how many posts were made during that day. Right now Tumblr sits at “18,983,293,198 total posts, 44,387,775 daily posts and 47,593,269 total blogs. When checking back almost an hour later the total posts and total blogs jumped by several thousands. These numbers indicate how fast postings can spread through Tumblr along with how far they can reach, and is one of the reasons action is being taken.

The site creates a sense of community as you can follow your favourites and comment on shared interests. It is a place where individuals can blog and reblog whatever they wish – from likes and inspirations to favourite television shows, fashion, food or cute animals. It is a faster form of blogging, where many posts are simply reposts from other Tumblr pages. When browsing through, many pages consist of pictures, quotes, videos, etc… with associated tags (#fashion) –similar to Twitter- making searches very easy for users.

This all started when it was announced on the staff blog that Tumblr will now begin to ban content that promotes self-harm. They are going to be prohibiting posts that “encourage readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counselling or treatment for depression or other disorders” – They have also decided that they will start showing Public Service Announcements targeted at these issues. When users or browsers are searching for tags such as “#thinspo” (thin inspiration), “#proana,” or any other terms associated with self-harm, a PSA will be displayed offering support sites and hotlines.
Tumblr, however, does realize that they are putting themselves in the line of fire. The philosophy of this website and the company is that it offers users a space and environment to post freely and express themselves. The company’s release states “We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr. This prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification; recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation” – It came down to giving users the freedom to post while maintaining the company’s values and beliefs. The company is also offering a grace period for these specific blogs to remove content and change what is necessary to avoid losing their account.
So far the reactions of bloggers have been mixed. Thousands of users have reblogged the company’s post and are in full support of the decision. However, for all those in support, there are almost as many not in favour. Reasons against the decision range from taking away outlets for those who need to connect with others in their situation, while others discuss other manners of self-harm promotion. The majority of replies against Tumblr’s decision express that the company is going too far and are concerned with what will be prohibited next. One blogger states, “so why don’t they also create a policy against people posting about, while, or in support of getting drunk. Is that not self-harm? Drug addiction? And all those pictures of ‘glamorous’ women smoking cigarettes. Aren’t they promoting something harmful too? Needless to say, I disagree with this policy. There are other ways to support people in the position of utilizing self-harm than making them feel like freaking pariahs.
Critics are also quick to point out that these bloggers will simply move to the next big social media platform – Pinterest. Pinterest is similar to Tumblr as it allows users to “pin” any images from the internet to their online pinboard. Cheryl Wischhover of checked out Pinterest for herself. She reported that although there are as many pins of the same content on Pinterest, most of these pins are originating from Tumblr pages. Therefor in a sense, eliminating postings on one will platform heavily reduce postings on the other
Only time will tell whether this prohibition will stand and whether or not it will truly work. As far as individuals turning to other sites, that cannot be controlled. However, eliminating one source is always a step in the right direction.

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