Learning how to "turn off" triggering content in news and social media

Presented by:

  • Laurie Yurchuck, Executive Coordinator at National Alliance for Eating Disorders
  • Ruth Elliott, Director of Clinical Services at MEDA
  • Serena Nangia, Marketing & Communications Manager at Project HEAL
  • Kath Stevens, Social Media Manager at Within Health

In the age of smartphones and mobile devices, we are in a media-saturated world. While there is no singular cause of disordered eating and body satisfaction, there is increasing evidence that media contributes to eating disorder development and poor self-image.1

You risk encountering triggering or harmful content with every new scroll through your newsfeed. So what can we do as professionals, people in recovery, or just as individuals, do to find safety online? 

Here we’ll take you through some good social media practices, platform-specific ways of protecting yourself, being a more critical viewer of what you see online, and tips for finding your happy place online.

Better social media practices

Social media is here to stay, whether we like it or not. For many of us, it plays a vital role in our work and social lives. But unfortunately, while social media is full of funny, joyous, and informative content, it’s also where diet culture and pro-eating disorder content can pop up when you least expect it.

We’re not suggesting you should delete all social media and live in a cave. Instead, you can adjust your social media habits to make the online world safer.

  • Avoid social media when your mood is low:  It happens to all of us. We are not feeling so good and end up “doom scrolling” through social media. Avoid social media when you’re mood is low to prevent you from being triggered when you’re already feeling vulnerable.
  • Filter who and what you follow: Follow people and hashtags that validate and uplift you, like those that promote and celebrate shape and size diversity. 
  • Set time limits: We’ve all been guilty of falling down the rabbit hole on Instagram or TikTok, so while setting time limits on social media apps is difficult, it is worth the effort. You’ll be amazed how much extra time you have to do things that nourish you, such as reading and getting out into nature. You may also find that you spend you’re allotted time on social media in a much more meaningful way, learning something new, using your voice, and uplifting others.
  • Know when to take a break: It’s okay to step away from social media when you feel like it’s getting too much for you. If you need to use social media for work, as a colleague, if they will take over for you, or schedule your posts using an app so that you can take a little break.
  • Trust your gut: Use your mindfulness skills and monitor how you feel when you’re scrolling through social media. If something upsets you, that’s okay; just “get friendly with the block button” and permanently remove it from your feed.
  • Add diversity to your feed: Make sure you follow accounts from all different walks of life, such as different backgrounds, gender identities, ethnicities, races, body sizes, etc.
  • Save posts that resonate with you: Screenshot or save posts that lift you up and make you feel empowered so you can look at them whenever you need a boost or be reminded that you have value.
  • Don’t compare yourself: Social media is flooded with toxic positivity. People tend to only show the most impressive, attractive, and exciting versions of themselves, making you feel “less than” by comparison. What you see on social media is just a snapshot of a small moment in time, not an accurate representation of that person or their life. 

Archetypes/personalities of social media

Each social media platform is so different in the variety of content, layout, and methods of engaging content. 

Serena Nagia, Marketing and Communications Manager at Project Heal, has some interesting thoughts on how these differences influence the archetypes/personalities of the major social medial platforms and how this may influence your engagement.

Twitter is the conversation starter that encourages open conversations and the sharing of opinions. However, you should treat Twitter with caution, as you won’t agree with all the views expressed, and there will undoubtedly be people who don’t agree with your point of view. Furthermore, as Twitter is such an open platform, it’s easy to access pro-anorexia, pro-diet culture, etc., content, so be considered when engaging with content.

Instagram is the cool aunt who is just about “with it” but has some improvements to make. Treat with a keen eye, a reserved finger, and a heavy block hand when needed. Instagram’s algorithm recognizes the time spent on a post or reel. If a triggering post causes an emotional response, your engagement is noticed, and you’ll see more of the same in an attempt to keep you on the platform longer. If you see something triggering, scroll past it as quickly as possible—don’t waste your time on content that causes an unpleasant emotional reaction.

Facebook is the sweet Grandma and the high school bully all rolled into one. They will make you cookies while saying mean things about you behind your back. So, be selective with your friends and careful with your privacy settings. Facebook has some great interesting videos, but stay out of the comments sections—no good can come from the comments section.

TikTok is a well-informed teenager that almost knows too much, and you should take everything they say with a grain of salt. You can take validation from empowering content but skip any triggering content quickly. This stops the algorithm from recognizing you’re emotionally invested and shows you more of the same.

LinkedIn is the CEO, a powerful information source, and a great learning tool. That’s not to say there won’t be some triggering content, but as a site for professional networking, it’s not as prevalent as with other social media platforms. So, share your professional wins, but share your disappointments, too, to stop toxic positivity. 

Platform-specific ways to protect against triggering content

Here are some useful tips for blocking, filtering, and reporting harmful or triggering content or users on social media platforms.2 Just be aware that privacy and safety settings often change, so it’s wise to check your settings every so often.


Twitter has filters for hiding sensitive content, specific content and triggers, people, and the option to report content.

Filter sensitive content:

  1. On the Twitter menu, select Settings and then Privacy.
  2. Select Privacy and Safety and scroll down to “Safety.”
  3. Head to Search Filters and check “Hide Sensitive Content.”

Filter specific content:

  1. On the Twitter menu, select Content Preferences and scroll down to the “Safety” section.
  2. Select “Muted” and then “Muted Words.”
  3. Click on the “+” sign to add any words or phrases you don’t want to see on Twitter.
  4. Select a timeline for how long you want this content muted.

Filter individuals:

Twitter gives you the option to both mute and block individuals:

  1. Go to the profile of the individual in question.
  2. Select the Menu button and either “Mute @username” or “Block @username.”

Muting an individual keeps you from seeing content from that profile, and Blocking them will also prevent them from interacting with your profile.


Facebook has fewer options for filtering sensitive content, instead using a system of reviewing user reports on posts and asking the original poster to remove the harmful post. 

When you report anything to Facebook, it’s sent to a team to review and determine if it goes against Community Standards.

This process can take weeks and is not guaranteed to have the outcome you hoped for. Therefore, you may have more success in avoiding triggering content by blocking or restricting individuals who regularly post problematic content.

Filter individuals:

  • Unfriend: This removes an individual from your friend list and stops you from seeing any non-public posts and information, and vice versa. Select the “Friends” button from the individual's profile and check “Unfriend.”
  • Unfollow: You’ll still stay friends with the individual, but their posts will no longer appear on your newsfeed. From the “Friends” button on their profile, check “Unfollow.”
  • Block: This prevents individuals from being able to see and interact with your profile and from sending you messages or friend requests and vice versa. Select the menu button in the individual’s profile and select “Block.”
  • Restrict: You can restrict certain friends from seeing any of your posts that aren't public while still remaining friends. On the individual’s profile, select the “Friends” button and then “Edit Friend List,” and check “Restricted.”


With Instagram, you can filter comments, specific words or phrases, and your feed, as well as restrict and block individuals and report content.

Block comments from certain individuals: This will hide comments from specific individuals from your post.

  1. On your profile, select the menu button and select “Settings.”
  2. Head to the “Privacy” section and select “Comments.”
  3. Select “Block Comments From” and then enter the username of any users you don’t want to comment on your content.

Hide generally offensive comments:  This will hide comments on Instagram content that the platform deems offensive or inappropriate. In the “Comments” sections of “Settings,” toggle on “Hide Offensive Comments.”

Filter specific words or phrases: This will hide all comments that feature any words or phrases you don’t want to see. In “Comments,” use the toggle to turn on “Manual Filter” and enter any words or phrases you don’t want to see. You can also select “Filter Most Reported Words,” which hides comments containing words most commonly reported on your posts.

Mute or block an individual: Muting stops you from seeing posts from a profile you follow without blocking them. Blocking a profile prevents a person from seeing your posts or interacting with you and vice versa.

  • To mute, head to the individual's profile, select the “Following“ drop-down menu and select “Mute.”
  • To block, head to the individual's profile, select the menu button, and then “Block.”

Restrict an individual: Restricting an account will protect you from unwanted interaction without needing to block or unfollow the person. The individual will not know they are restricted but will be unable to see when you’re online or when you have read their messages. Click the menu button in the corner of their profile and select “Restrict.”

Tips for becoming a critical viewer of the media

Wherever we look, messages tell us how we should look, which can make us feel less comfortable in our own skin, if we don’t meet this ideal image. These messages will not go away, but we can protect ourselves from these narrow definitions of beauty by becoming critical media viewers. 

  • What you see in the media are careful construction and not reflections on reality, particularly regarding advertisements.
  • Advertisements are crafted only to do one thing—to convince you to buy whatever they sell. To do this, advertisers will try and elicit an emotional response, which could be to make you feel dissatisfied with your body size and shape. The media’s definitions of beauty should not define your self-image or potential.
  • Advertisers create their message based on what they believe the consumer wants to see—it’s not the truth. As individuals, we can ignore these messages and see them for what they are.

Seeking out supportive and nourishing content

What can content creators and journalists do to create supportive, non-triggering content?

Laurie Yurchick, Executive Coordinator at the National Alliance for Eating Disorders, shared her perspective as someone in recovery, with the primary message “stay away from specifics”. 

How often have you been scrolling online and come across “before and after” weight loss pictures, stories about how long it took for a celebrity to lose their baby weight, or some other insidious form of diet culture, masquerading as click-bait articles? 

Should there be more accountability from the media? Should content creators be more consistent with trigger warnings? Or should we, as social media users, have more control over the content and advertising we see online?

How to start a positive change on social media

Both Serena Nangia and Ruth Elliot, Director of Clinical Services at MEDA, agree that social media can be a source of good. Social media is powerful, sparking civil and human rights movements—it’s a great way to spread an important message worldwide and elevate marginalized groups, allowing their voices to be heard.

Social media is also a great place to find your tribe. Eating disorder recovery can often feel like an isolated place, but social media allows you to connect with people with similar circumstances all over the world. Through social media, you can find a place in a community that is accepting and supportive, where you can share your stories and help advocate for others. 

The world of social media doesn’t always feel like a safe place for people in recovery, but there are things you can do to be the positive change you’d like to see:

  • Be compassionate to yourself and others: You can be a source of good on social media by considering how and what you post. Try to be authentic and post an accurate reflection of your life while still sharing just want you’re comfortable with. Plus, commenting on content based on appearances alone can be so easy. Try to comment in a way that uplifts and commends a person for who they are, not just how they appear.
  • Report bullies: While it can be hard to confront triggering comments or inappropriate posts, report cyberbullies and harmful content creators if you can. You don’t have to engage them, just report them and move on. Sometimes the most minor action can make a difference.
  • Use positive hashtags: Hashtags are a great way to spread a positive message through social media. Try using uplifting messages like #loveyourbody #bodypositivity #healthateverysize, #foodisfuel, etc. Additionally, use images that show strength and confidence without filters and photoshopping to help yourself and others learn to love the skin they’re in.
  • Follow uplifting organizations: Flood your feeds with positivity by following organizations that promote a positive body image and self-esteem, such as NEDA and HAES. These organizations create a real sense of community online, spreading messages of acceptance, love, advocacy, and change. Plus, through social media, these organizations hold eating disorder awareness weeks, post learning materials, and even host meal support.
  • Education is power: Social media is a great tool to educate and inspire the world around you. Post supportive messages about mental health, self-acceptance, ad self-esteem, and other things that interest you. Let others know what you’re interested in learning about and make connections with like-minded individuals that you may not have otherwise.
  • Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable: Recovery is a journey with ups and downs. So instead of faking “I’m fine” posts, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share your challenges and triumphs. Not only will your authenticity be empowering for you, but also for others reading. If you’re concerned about potentially sharing triggering content, discuss with your therapist about what is appropriate to share.


  1. Media & Eating Disorders. (2022, March 2). National Eating Disorders Association.  Retrieved February 15, 2023.
  2. How to filter, Block, and report harmful content on social media. (n.d.). RAINN. Retrieved February 15, 2023.