Scroll through TikTok and you'll be served many things. That viral feta and tomato pasta recipe, a synchronised dance and, huh, what's this, a 'what I eat in a day' video, recorded by a very slim girl, who eats no more than 1400 calories. Dig a little deeper and you'll find tips on how to to lose an unhealthy amount of weight in three days, and get the lowdown on a new, supposedly revolutionary (read: dangerous) diet. For a platform that caters predominantly to impressionable Gen Z's who are inundated with societal pressures and unrealistic beauty standards anyway, it's a huge problem. Yes, videos can be reported and accounts can be blocked, but just like a weed, once it's existed it's near impossible to kill. With an appetite (for want of a better word) for diet content, users go in search of it, and even if they know better, it can appear on their algorithmically-powered For You page.
It is therefore, welcome and applauded news that the platform is joining forces with American non-profit organisation, National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), “to raise awareness about eating disorders and put their lifesaving resources in the hands of those in need”. The partnership coincides with both the US and the UK's National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (22-28 February for the States, and 1-7 March over here), which aims to spotlight eating disorders, and provide people with the tools to overcome, assist and support.
From now on, when US users search for any pro-eating disorder tags (#edrecovery, #proana...) they’ll be automatically redirected to the NEDA Helpline, where they'll find support, and information about treatment options. And to give the project some more thrust, TikTok is encouraging its community to share their stories on issues related to food, exercise, and body image under the hashtag #NEDAwareness. Currently trending, there are thousands of vlogs in which users reflect on their personal journeys, and promote fundraising initiatives for local charities.
"We're constantly inspired by stories of our community members lifting up one another and supporting those who are affected by body image and eating disorders," says the TikTok's press office. Though at present this a rollout for US users, the platform is working closely with leading experts and charities in every country (in the UK, it's Beat), to do something similar. About time, too.