Screen Readers Skip to Content

Social Media Promotes Skeletal Images of Women Using #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration Hashtag

Author: University of Exeter
Published: 23rd Oct 2017
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Adolescent Girls Publications

Summary: Images of thin female bodies with protruding bones and skinny limbs posted on social media with hashtags #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration.


Main Document

Skeletal images of bodies featuring protruding bones and pencil-thin limbs are being shared and promoted on social media, new research shows.

A study by the University of Exeter shows how Twitter and Instagram accounts are celebrating extreme thinness, with users invited to say they "like" images.

This so-called "bonespiration" content features selfies by young women of their skeletal bodies featuring protruding collar bones, hip bones and spines in a variety of poses.

Its purpose is to boast about a skeletal appearance and inspire others to achieve the same emaciated look.

There are numerous versions of the bonespiration Twitter feed, and Instagram accounts. Some platforms for posting such images are hidden within mainstream sites.

The research, led by a psychologist at the University of Exeter's Medical School, shows there are thousands of account holders. The images of protruding bones are almost exclusively posted by young women.

The study analysed 730 images posted. It found 26 per cent of images showed hip bones, 23 per cent showed jutting ribs, and 22 per cent showed protruding collarbones. 6 per cent of photographs analysed depicted the spine.

Academics fear that social media has replaced the pro-anorexia ("pro-ana") websites, and are becoming an easy to access way of encouraging eating disorders, such as anorexia.

The sites flash up a question asking if they need help, but researchers say the platforms raise question about whether tougher regulation is required.

They fear efforts to ban the images would lead to others with different hashtags appearing within days.

More mainstream twitter hashtags such as #thinspiration which features photos of thin celebrities, also depict young people with protruding ribs collar bones and spines, the research found.

The research found a small sub group of people posting skeletal images with the hashtag 'fitspiration', which is dedicated to inspiring supposedly healthy bodies.

The researchers say the sites are being used to promote extremely unhealthy body types and are increasing pressure on teenage girls to try to become extremely thin, while contributing to a distorted view of their own body.

Ms Catherine Talbot, a psychologist and PhD researcher at the University of Exeter Medical School and lead author of the paper, said the photos were a form of "social contagion" and inspiring young people to engage with risky practices.

"Anorexia and extreme weight loss is a serious social and medical problem. To tackle this social contagion we need to be aware of the social media platforms being used by young people - mainly girls and young women - which is encouraging extreme weight loss. This behaviour could seriously damage their psychological and physical health," she said. "Teenagers need to be taught about positive body image in schools and we need to build resilience."

The paper, "A content analysis of thinspiration, fitspiration, and bonespiration imagery on social media", has been published in the Journal of Eating Disorders.

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Adolescent Girls Publications

The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Adolescent Girls that includes:

Hormones May Affect Girls Interests But Not Gender Identity or Playmates thumbnail image.
Prenatal exposure to male hormones influence which activities girls are interested in, but effects of those hormones do not extend to gender identity or who they socialize with.
Publish Date: 1st Mar 2018 - Updated: 5th Nov 2022
Psychological Problems Last Into Adulthood for Girls Who Mature Early thumbnail image.
Girls who get periods early more psychologically vulnerable as teenagers with more frequent and severe mental health problems, from depression to anxiety, eating disorders, delinquency, substance abuse and failing or dropping out of school.
Publish Date: 1st Mar 2018
Social Media Promotes Skeletal Images of Women Using #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration Hashtag thumbnail image.
Images of thin female bodies with protruding bones and skinny limbs posted on social media with hashtags #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration.
Publish Date: 23rd Oct 2017
Girls Start Believing Harmful Gender Stereotypes by Age 6 thumbnail image.
Research reveals stereotyping affects girls as young as 6 years old, often influencing their activity choices.
Publish Date: 27th Jan 2017


1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Sexual Identities
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.


• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.



• (APA): University of Exeter. (2017, October 23). Social Media Promotes Skeletal Images of Women Using #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration Hashtag. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved May 24, 2024 from www.sexualdiversity.org/sexuality/adolescent/girls/825.php


• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/sexuality/adolescent/girls/825.php">Social Media Promotes Skeletal Images of Women Using #Bonespiration and #Thinspiration Hashtag</a>