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Eating disorders such as anorexia have been around for centuries, yet as new technology develops in the spheres of social media and communication, new stages for their increased popularization arise.

A recent radical weight-loss movement spearheaded by a conglomerate of online communities is now gaining popularity as they capitalize on the exposure provided by social-networking applications via social-networking sites such as Facebook.

It is the responsibility of Facebook to take a stand against the movement by eradicating "thinspo" communities from its network.

"Thinspo" communities, as they're referred to, feature user-uploaded before-and-after photos of extreme weight loss as so-called "motivation."

The "thinspo" phenomenon was first documented on Tumblr, a free blogging site, and then on Pinterest, a photo and video posting site similar to Instagram. Both sites took aggressive steps toward eradicating "thinspo" content from their sites upon the realization of the movements' popularity and potential for harm.

Instagram, an application recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, allows users to post photos under certain filters and tag them under certain headings. Now, as Instagram's presence on Facebook becomes increasingly prominent, these photo-shopped portraits have begun to infiltrate the social-networking realm like a virus.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect up to 24 million people. The age of onset has decreased from 13 to 17 to 9 to 12.

Then there is a recent study by the National Eating Disorders Association found that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of becoming fat. The desire to be "skinny" has long been a symptom of a mass obsession with cultural ideals of what it means to be attractive, ideals promoted on a large scale by mass media.

Despite the obvious arguments of die-hard, free-speech advocates, who might contest that it is the right of the site user to upload what he or she desires, the realities and consequences of the "thinspo" communities large presence on social networks such as Facebook are disturbing.

These communities not only reinforce unhealthy and potentially life-threatening behavior, they do so with enthusiasm. There is a fine line between protecting the rights of site users and protecting the legitimacy and safety of social-media sites as a whole.

With the majority of the young community in America using Facebook on a daily basis, pre-teens and teens are being exposed to trends that will not only sculpt the way they think but provide an example of how they should dictate their behavior.

Instagram's popularity and mass use through networks such as Facebook is lending a spotlight and a voice to a movement that is not only deeply unsettling in terms of its socio-cultural implications, but one that promotes physical self-harm.

Instagram and Facebook should take similar approaches in combating the pro-anorexic groups, and they should do so promptly and aggressively. Free speech really doesn't have much at all to do with it. Though the "thinspo" movements on social-networking sites have every right to continue their operation, they should be commercially forced to do so only on their own sites.

Facebook has an immense following. Its use has become a part of daily life and communication for the masses — the company has a responsibility to its users and to the online community as a whole to monitor and combat behavior deemed threatening.

It's also necessary to examine this issue in light of the fact that as Internet becomes a staple in the lives of Americans, eating disorders are also becoming increasingly common.

Facebook and now Instagram play a pivotal role in mass media, and it's their social and ethical responsibility to act with integrity and to promote the general well-being of society.

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