TikTok, the eponymous, largely anonymous app which allows users to share short videos, is a tool used by some to obtain videos of pro-eating disorder content, reports researcher Dr. Eva Duron, both for sharing and as a form of self-harm.
Duron examined the TikTok images uploaded by users, and found that while less than 1% of TikTok posts include a video explicitly depicting an eating disorder, 77% of them contained the word “eater” in the title.
With over 150 million active users, TikTok is becoming a vehicle for pro-eating disorder content. TikTok has received complaints from health professionals around the world (McIntyre Institute, Eating Disorders and Media UK, The National Eating Disorders Association, ABC News) that the app “trivializes eating disorders” and could “lead to more young people being influenced by this content.”
Related: 9 Most Compelling Photos Of Eating Disorders Ever Taken
Befitting in its original Russian name, TikTok allows users to record short video clips of themselves performing skits or other activities, no matter how engaging they might seem. When a user becomes a “Creator”, the feed on their profile offers a treasure trove of public viewable content.
Duron examined TikTok’s 30 top TikTok Creator posts since May 2018. Several of the TikTok creators had participated in the TikTok documentary “Eating Disorders in the Digital Age” and uploaded their own eating disorder content to their TikTok accounts.
The Influencers “were born into a culture in which social media and self-harm are commonplace activities,” Duron wrote. Many also push their or to see whether they have succeeded with posting a pro-eating disorder video.
“It is easy to find diet topics that were proven to be risky for developing young individuals. I would definitely recommend early intervention for TikTok users,” Duron writes.
View the full research paper here.