As a Tumblr naif, I have been stunned by how hard it is to avoid “thinspo” and “fitspo” content (of neither of which I was, until now, a consumer) here in the course of following other yoga and exercise writers.
Before I get to some of the differences, though, let’s note the improvement to their admitted new policy on self-harm and eating disorders (as I discussed here):
“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.”
I wonder if that’s because Tumblr is, just generally, anything-inspo friendly… not only do many people express themselves by reblogging pictures that they like and that conform to (or express, or something in between) a certain aesthetic, but reading Tumblr is an exercise in viewing and liking such images. Or text, since the majority of politics or social justice blogs on Tumblr seem to be about positive or negative inspiration from whatever it is other actors in the media (or in Tumblr itself) say about things - ‘quotespo’, as it were.
Of course there’s a particularly extreme dynamic at work in the case of thinspiration, but where exactly does the qualitative difference lie between it and the general use of Tumblr in providing ‘inspiration’ for various material and post-material aspects of our modern lives? Inspiration that can often seem quite repetitive and shallow, but it’s not like the answering exhortation ‘let’s get critical’ doesn’t produce some of the same symptoms within the same context. When considering the eating disorders debate, I wondered how facetious would it be to point to our leftist dissatisfactions and see them as self-destructive behaviour?
Beyond just pointing out hypocrisy and failure in the performance of politics, if I decry loud enough the neoliberal orthodoxy gripping our political and economic discussions, how close am I to expressing and enabling despair with the totality of modern life? What would it take for ‘active promotion and glorification’ of revolutionary politics (which I don’t generally subscribe to, being of a moderate disposition, although I have sympathy with its ends) to become an unacceptable alternative to encouraging reform, petitioning and awareness-raising about the procedural aspects of public policy?
I say that not to ridicule such a debate, but to ridicule the idea that we can easily decide what aspects of human expression are acceptable, and what are not; a distinction relying on the pathologising of behaviour, which is in turn dependent on the very assumptions that debate and discussion seeks to analyse. Or should seek to, at the very least.