The bikini bridge started as a simple but cunning internet hoax dreamed up by certain idle users of the notorious internet message forum 4Chan. But now the new fake "thinspiration" craze poses a real threat to vulnerable young women conditioned by media culture to constantly be on the lookout for new standards of weight loss.
That is what health experts are worrying now that the "trend" has been exposed as another 4Chan prank.
"People with poor body image who are at risk or actively struggling with disordered eating tend to fixate on particular body parts; there is nothing new about those obsessions," Claire Mysko of the National Eating Disorders Association told The Washington Post. "What is new is that coined terms like 'thigh gap' and 'bikini bridge' – and the news articles, images, hashtags and social media comparisons that come with them — have given those obsessions larger and more competitive platforms."
For those of you who actually spend more time at the beach than on the internet, the so-called bikini bridge is supposed to result when a woman or young girl becomes so thin that when she wears bikini bottoms, her protruding hip bones actually lift the fabric up and off of her skin, creating the "bridge."
Users of 4Chan did not invent the idea of the bikini bridge. As the Post's Caitlin Dewey points out, the concept has been around since at least 2009. But it never received the publicity that it has recently, when 4Chan users went all-out with the hoax.
"it doesn't matter in the slightest where the images and hashtags started, or if the fad began as 'real' or 'fake,'" Dewey wrote. "The difference between the two is malleable online."
After many media outlets reported the story as real, they then reversed course to warn about the hoax. NBC News Today Show, for example, pleaded with its online audience, "Don't fall for the 'bikini bridge' prank the Internet is playing on you."
"When someone HAS an eating disorder, they will view this as a challenge - do I have that bridge?" Lynn Grefe, president of the NEDA, told The New York Daily News. "It just promotes the sad competition in a person's brain, as they never feel thin enough."
The bikini bridge is one thing. The bridge between fiction and reality is another, and 4Chan users have been known to cross that one before. In November, a Canadian university student and longtime 4Chan member attempted to commit suicide by setting his dormitory room on fire and waiting to burn.
About 200 other users watched a live, online broadcast of the suicide attempt, many of them egging the youth on and others claiming that the whole thing was faked.