This week, I was highly interested in McCabe’s article discussing pro-eating disorder websites and communities. Similar to last week, this article delves into the darker side of the Internet and how it can be harmful. The idea of people congregating online to reframe eating disorders into a positive activity was truly mind blowing. As I read I couldn’t help but feel that these types of communities were simply profound instances of group think. These online communities desire acceptance and harmony above all else and reject any sort of outside information or opinion in order to maintain the peace they have found on these websites. Those who engage in such communities refrain from expressing any doubt in their choices and continuously rationalize their actions together. They believe that their decisions are right and completely normal even when the actions have been medically proven to be extremely detrimental to their health and well-being.
Furthermore, I found it very interesting to see how the Internet has encouraged such communal behavior. Because of the anonymity involved, people are able to express their ideas, attitudes and beliefs on certain topics without judgment. Additionally, the anonymity and growing access to technologies has allowed people with these very strong opinions to express them behind seemingly legitimate websites. These websites can then be easily found by those who wish to reinforce their own beliefs, values, attitudes and reject any and all others. The idea of a fantasy being created by sharing these aspects of one’s identity with others became quite scary when looked at more thoroughly. I can’t help but be slightly reminded of the formation and general practice of cults in society. The characterization of the diseases as a form of hope and inspiration was so contradictory to reality that it became hard to determine whether their activity online was beginning to be a form of brainwashing. The description of how individuals found these pro-eating disorder websites and what exactly they were doing and saying on them was shocking. The fact that a person who is clearly struggling themselves can go on the Internet, express their skewed ideas on a website and suddenly be perceived as a credible source of insight so much so that they start a following is a dangerous capability. Imagine if Charles Manson had the Internet? These types of communities really show the dangers of using the Internet as an escape and just how involved one can become. It also begins to emphasize the importance of online literacy and reflection. Being able to recognize and analyze who is saying what information is becoming equally as important as being able to actively reflect on your Internet practices and whether or not they are beneficial or hurtful to your reality.