The Mighty Logo

What to Know About TikTok If You Are in Eating Disorder Recovery

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

Need to take your mind off what you’re going through? Join the Distract Me group on The Mighty.

At the heart of my eating disorder existed comparison and competitiveness that fueled the fire my eating disorder needed to keep going.

For me, a huge part of the eating disorder is feeling like nothing is ever “enough.” I am so grateful to be recovering now, but there was a time in my life that I felt I had to be the best in my eating disorder.

When I started to recover, I took a step back from social media, especially accounts that are notorious for promoting eating disorders, so I could truly focus on my reasons to recover as well as comprehend the damage the eating disorder was wreaking on my body. Although I still used social media, I made sure it was filled with recovery content and content that had nothing to do with eating disorders, so I could separate my identity from my illness.

When I downloaded TikTok, my intention was to view my friends’ videos of their pets, as well as create my own. However, eating disorder content quickly appeared on my “For You” page due to TikTok’s algorithm. What I saw was appalling.

Instead of being filled with content about all recovery gives someone and how to reclaim one’s life, it was filled with videos and sound bites of tips on how to lose weight, body checks, before and after videos and anything that related to the promotion of eating disorders. It ranged from memes about treatment to downright numbers and a race to the bottom. It’s not only a problem to rate treatment centers like a hotel because it can most definitely harm the center, but it creates a trendy-like atmosphere suggesting that treatment is the place to be.

Moreover, it promotes the idea that eating disorders are an aesthetic — that eating disorders are the “in” thing versus a deadly illness with severe complications. It brings those living with an eating disorder back to the idea that all they are is their behaviors and now they have a space where they can get validation for it. In addition to receiving validation, users can help other people get further into their eating disorders, which will likely cause more hospitalizations and death.

For someone who does not have an eating disorder, the simplest of solutions would just be to not look at it or to just scroll past it. However, confirmation bias is extremely prevalent, especially in the eating disorder online community. When I was struggling with an eating disorder, I constantly looked for proof that my eating disorder was “right” and my behaviors were “acceptable.” Moreover, people with eating disorders are gravitating toward this content to receive that “OK” that their behavior is acceptable.

Therefore, if you are in recovery or struggling with disordered eating (diagnosed or not diagnosed), I recommend that you do not download TikTok. One search will fill your feed with videos promoting the behaviors that you already have the urge to do. Creating a space on social media that promoted recovery and the fighting of my eating disorder showed me that there is so much more to life than losing weight, and that’s because there is. Remember, you are not your struggle. Do not let an app convince you that you need to get worse. TikTok, in its current state, will damage thousands of people’s recoveries by making eating disorders seem like the new trend instead of a deadly illness. Not downloading TikTok may be the thing that keeps you in recovery. I know, for me, that not downloading TikTok helps me keep thriving in recovery. From someone who has made waves, I can say unintentionally triggering yourself is not worth it, even if all your friends have it.

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

Originally published: May 21, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home