*Content note: This story contains reference to eating disorders.*
Social media users should feel in control of the content they see.
A new feature on Instagram lets users block weight loss ads from appearing on their feeds, and it’s being welcomed by eating disorder advocates.
To avail of the new feature, all you need to do is go to your settings, click ad, then ad topics. You can then select the topic body weight control, and opt to see less.
The ad blocking feature follows a campaign from influencer Katie Bundenberg, who has been calling on Instagram to recognise weight loss content as potentially triggering and dangerous.
She said: “It’s no secret that the aim of a weight-loss ad is to make you feel inadequate in your body so that you are persuaded to pay the company large amounts of money to help you lose weight. To some, these ads may be harmless and they can scroll on but for some these ads are triggering and dangerous.
“This is why we are asking that Instagram adds the option to not see weight loss ads; this setting already exists for other potentially triggering topics, such as alcohol and parenting, and should be extended to weight loss. This setting would make Instagram a safer, and therefore a more inclusive, place for those with a history of disordered eating and/or body image issues.”
The move comes as the conversation surrounding social media platforms and the weight loss industry evolves. In the US alone, the industry is estimated to be worth over $72 billion, and it’s expected to grow by 3.6% this year. Given its size, weight loss products have found themselves at home online, and they’ve been infiltrating social media for a long time.
When it comes to blocking out the diet noise, social media users are up against it. However, if more social media platforms follow in Instagram’s footprints, they will be better equipped in controlling the content they see, and hopefully, those who experience eating disorders will be better protected. Eating disorder experts have noted the potential harm weight loss ads can cause. Last year, Rebecca Willgress, from BEAT told Metro that this type of content “may exacerbate the problem or be a contributing factor for someone who is vulnerable to developing [an eating disorder] or is already ill”.
Instagram’s new feature reflects a pushback against the omnipresence of potentially triggering content on social media, and they’re not the only ones. Last year, Pinterest made history by becoming the first social media platform to ban all ads relating to weight loss on their site. The image-sharing website set the bar for social media platforms by working with the National Eating Disorders Association directly on their policy. It is now up to other companies to follow their lead, and prioritise the mental health of their users instead of bolstering the weight loss industry.