Effects of Pro Anorexia Websites
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. Most people struggling with anorexia know that it is unhealthy and unsafe, but with the media constantly emphasizing the positive correlation between being thin and being attractive, a large percentage of people find starving themselves an effective way of achieving that ideal body. The majority of the time it is difficult for people with anorexia nervosa to talk to their family, friends, or a counselor about their disorder because they do not want to admit to anyone the harm they are causing themselves. However, they also do not want to feel alone in their struggle to be thin. As a result, many of the people with anorexia nervosa turn to pro anorexia blogs and websites in order to find people to relate to or to have a place where they can fit in and not be ashamed of what they’re doing to their bodies. This paper will be focusing on how the way anorexia is communicated through pro anorexia blogs and websites affects those who already have anorexia nervosa, as well as those who do not.
Before looking at why people seek out these websites and blogs, one should first take a look at the motivation behind the bloggers and the website creators. The Yeshua-Katz, D., & Martins, N. (2012) study conducted 33 interviews with bloggers from seven different countries via phone, Skype, and e-mail. After interviewing these bloggers, the researchers found that the participants were motivated to blog because they found social support, a way to cope with a stigmatized illness, and a means of self-expression. The participants described blogging as a cathartic experience and perceived the social support they received from other members of the pro-anorexia community as a benefit, (Yeshua-Katz & Martins, 2012). Brotsky and Giles (2007) also found that the primary motivation for blogging was to seek social support. Most bloggers started publishing because they did not want to feel alone and were interested in finding others like themselves. They described interactions with family and friends as stressful "because they lack the understanding of their situation, while online they receive support constituted with sympathy, understanding and encouragement." (Brotsky and Giles, p 93-109). About half of the bloggers also said self-expression and the need to cope with social stigmas were other motives. When asked to give an example of how blogging might help them cope with stigma, six respondents answered that blogging offers them a different reality. The majority of the sample reported that blogging about their illness improves their mood, and that they found relief through their writing; they reported that. The support they found was seen as unconditional (Brotsky & Giles, 2007).
The reason individuals struggling with anorexia seek out these blogs and websites is in many ways similar to the reason why bloggers start these sites to begin with. The pro-anorexia movement provides support for those with anorexia and adopts an ‘anti-recovery’ view of the disease (Baird, 2012). These websites and blogs allowed pro-anorexia followers to exchange messages in anonymous virtual communities where they encourage one another to be thin, as opposed to hearing from their friends and families about how they are harming their bodies. Haas, Irr, Jennings, & Wagner (2011) analysis of pro-anorexia websites revealed four themes encompassing eight communicative strategies: 1) co-constructing personal identity; 2) self-loathing; 3) advising; and, 4) group encouragement.
Although people with anorexia use pro-anorexia blogs and websites as a place to fit for the most part, they are still very secretive about it. In fact, when referring to the websites and blogs, they use the term “pro-ana” instead of pro-anorexia, or referred to sites simply as "ana" such sites are sometimes personified...