A week ago Thursday, I took a break from writing to wander off to Twitter, as one does. A message came up in my feed, with an Instagram link, and I clicked to view. Without thinking twice, I immediately responded.

The tweet was sort of a social media snowball – Jonathan Adler’s company was tweeting an Instagram posted by ELLE magazine of one of his needlepoint pillows in their September issue. Ironically, both the new issue of ELLE and Jonathan Adler post-it notes sat on my desk as I was typing.

The pillow is one I have seen before. Stitched in a rainbow of sherbet colors are the words: Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. A pretty boudoir pillow. An ugly message.

Kate Moss certainly wasn’t the first to say it, but three years after she called it her motto in a 2009 WWD interview, images of her with those superimposed words could be found posted across Tumblr and Pinterest and pro-ana sites that fill the web.

I have never myself had an eating disorder, but I know those who have struggled with them and those who’ve lost loved ones to them. I spent several years working for a renown ED author and first learned of the dangers of pro-ana sites – virtual cheerleaders for those with EDs, offering thinspiration through images, tips and tricks. Within the last year, any such images are now banned from sites like Tumblr and Pinterest. BANNED. And you know where else thinspo images are banned? Instagram.

As per their Terms of Use:

While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders…will result in a disabled account without warning. We believe that communication regarding these behaviors in order to create awareness, come together for support and to facilitate recovery is important, but that Instagram is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.”

Where fashion, design and social media intersect, doesn’t a certain level of responsibility need to be taken?

Brands know the power of social media. It’s why they create Twitter accounts and Facebook Pages and Pinterest boards. My tweet was immediately noticed, and responded to, by others who shared my concern. Some I knew, others were strangers.

While I had some good conversations with other Twitter users, not a word was said in response by Jonathan Adler or ELLE. To each person who said they were concerned, found it irresponsible, knew the pain of a loved one with an eating disorder – no response. The Adler account has a lot of followers, but you’d think that a concentrated number of tweets in a row to with both Adler and ELLE’s handles would have drawn notice. Twitter accounts are monitored. I thought they might delete the tweet. Realize it was foolish. No big show need be made. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Speaking of action, this last May, the editors of the 19 VOGUE magazine editions published worldwide, in partnership with the CFDA Health Initiative, announced moves to “ban models under 16 or those of any age with visible signs of eating disorders.” In reaction to this news, the following statement was made by The Hearst Corp.:

“Good health is something we strive to promote in our magazines, both in our fashion and beauty stories and in our features. We make every effort to educate our readers and present images that reflect strong, beautiful women.”

Hearst publishes ELLE.

You lose credibility with your readers when you promote the very thing you claim you don’t promote.

With all the recent controversy over what makes a good social media manager, one has to wonder if the people running social media for Jonathan Adler and ELLE consider what they’re doing?

I’m an Adler fan. My home is filled with his designs for bed and bath, books, pottery and paper goods. It dawned on me that a visit to my blog or my Instagram feed or Pinterest boards and you’d find Adler in all those places.

I wish I could say the pillow is witty. Wit is a wonderful thing. Except some things aren’t funny. Some things are too easily taken at face value and the humor lost leads to something dangerous. Some truly believe that being skinny is all that matters. That to starve is to succeed. That the words stitched onto that pillow are words of wisdom.

It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to sell the pillow. It just means their social media people shouldn’t be posting it to Instagram. People, brands, everyone, need to read the TOS.

I love fashion mags and have a stack of September issues three feet tall I’m currently wading through. I want to believe that these magazines are planning to do what they say and that designers understand that the power of their influence. Especially in social media.

The greatest irony, if you can call it that, is that directly above the pillow is an image of Marilyn Monroe. Though unrelated, the two images seem such a ridiculous contrast.

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4 thoughts on “Thinspiration and Social Media: No More Mixed Messages

  1. Amanda

    We as consumers have gotten so good at separating our values from our reading material, this doesn’t surprise me. Sound bites and shock value. I am so grateful you wrote this, but I fear half the people agreeing with it as they read will still furtively seek out the latest barometer of beautiful online or in print.

    We are all so much more than numbers, yet my nearly 8 year old stood before a mirror at the Gap and declared, “I like this outfit. It makes me look skinny.”

    It’s twisted. Thank you for speaking up, I’ll do my part.

    Reply
    1. alexandra Post author

      While it could seem contradictory to say so, I think Adler has the right to sell those pillows. But they belong in his boutiques and on his website – not on social media sharing platforms that make it clear harmful images are prohibited. Images that will move virally to the Tumblr pages of preteens who will not see them as witty but take them at face value. They’ll become mantras for a new generation. Let’s stop that cycle.

      Reply
    1. alexandra Post author

      Laura, I’m a fan, too. (In a post the day prior to this one I linked to the Omersa items they carry). I’m a customer, as were a number of the other women I was talking with on twitter just as this occurred, and we were including their handle and ELLE’s as we spoke. I think their social media managers could have discreetly removed the IG and the tweet. That’s all that was needed really. Everyone makes mistakes.

      Reply

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