Friday, March 09, 2012

Tumblr: Microblogging with Morals

Tumblr, as many people today in our technology-driven world know, is a free blog platform in which users can post multimedia content to their “tumblelog” to share with the World Wide Web. With over 47 million blogs, it can be said with confidence that Tumblr plays an important social role in today’s society. Playing “host” to such a wide variety of microblogs is undoubtedly a daunting task, and surely representing these blogs comes with many responsibilities. With this, Tumblr has been increasing censorship of the blogs and search phrases of its users. On their website, Tumblr states,
“One of the great things about Tumblr is that people use it for just about every conceivable kind of expression. People being people, though, that means that Tumblr sometimes gets used for things that are just wrong. We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits.”
One of these limits include a new policy that prohibits users from creating blogs or blog posts “that glorify or promote anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders; self-mutilation; or suicide”. The act of pulling these self-harm blogs obviously has the best intentions, however Tumblr is still under ridicule from many of its users. These users have either created or “follow” blogs that post “thinspiration”, “pro-ano”, and “pro-mia” pictures and lifestyle guidelines, encouraging each other to “stay strong and starve on”. Many arguments are based on how Tumblr will draw the line between free expression of its users, versus harmful content. Tumblr responded on their website within their Content Policy with this,
“Promotion and Glorification of Self-Harm. 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 counseling or treatment, or joining together in supportive conversation with those suffering or recovering from depression or other conditions. Dialogue about these behaviors is incredibly important and online communities can be extraordinarily helpful to people struggling with these difficult conditions. We aim to sustain Tumblr as a place that facilitates awareness, support and recovery, and to remove only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification of self-harm.”
Tumblr will also implement Public Service Announcements (PSA) when users use the search engine for words such as “pro-ana”, “pro-mia”, “thinspiration” and “thinspo”. This PSA will link users to Help Lines and websites that encourage them to seek help, instead of “thinspiration”. This is a very big step in the right direction for Tumblr, and therefore its users. For a blogging platform that is known to house many raunchy and controversial blogs, it is interesting and admirable that they have voluntarily come forward to censor those of which that contain self-harming content. Perhaps this is because these harmful blogs are projecting themselves as “healthy” to an extremely susceptible crowd, in which Tumblr feels responsible in protecting.
Despite the why and how, Tumblr picked the right time to do so. With summer on its way, awards shows every night, and day after day of “Fashion Week”, is it any wonder there has been a serge in “thinspiration” blogging. The pressures placed on
the youth of today to be thin, attractive and confident are substantial and overwhelming. The last thing society needs is an easy way (Tumblr, for example) to feed the fire with blogs encouraging this ideal. Although the banned blogs may not have caused every viewer an eating disorder, it can surely cause a loss of confidence in body image, which is why prohibition was such an important step for Tumblr to take. Although Tumblr may lose a thousand users due to the new policy, those blogs were detrimental to the health of millions of users, and thankfully Tumblr realized this.
Banning these blogs may not change the way some people continue to treat their body offline, or deter people from posting elsewhere, it will certainly make it easier to browse Tumblr pages without feeling ashamed, discouraged, and unhappy with ones own body image compared to distorted ideals. Hopefully this makes room for Tumblr blogs that truly inspire, accept, and encourage healthy body image. That’s an ideal society should stand behind.

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