In the “real world” anorexia and bulmia are seen as serious health issues and are not socially acceptable. Even with the constant pressure on people to be thin, these disorders have been deemed as extreme and dangerous illnesses.
With all the press that surrounds anorexia and bulmia, and all the research that goes into finding the causes and preventions of these diseases, online Internet communities supporting this lifestyle have still emerged. These pro-eating disorder websites are based around the mutual feeling of wanting to accept the lifestyle and to get support from others who feel the same way. These Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites are of great concern because of the content that is able to be shared on these webpages. This content can be conveyed through text, images, audio, or video, and it encourages knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors to achieve terribly low body weights.
“Thinspiration is content that promotes weight loss but often in a way that actively glorifies eating disordered behavior and thoughts,” said Claire Mysko, spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association.
The ways in which these lifestyles are seen as choices is nothing new, but thes use of social media and other Internet sites are dangerous platforms for spreading information about them. It is not just easier to get information about these disorders, but it is possible to find communities where people are looking to share their journey with others who are dealing with the same issues and thoughts. The idea that these websites promote community around these issues is alarming. Communities in the more traditional sense are seen as positive. When the content that is being shared in these communities is publicy viewed as negative, is the community aspect still a positive one?
The communities that are based around anorexia and bulmia are false communities in the sense that they are based off delusional ideas that these diseases are okay to live with. Many could argue that they are a false community because “You are doing it in front of your computer, all alone. And if you are spending hour upon hour comparing yourself to other bodies, and staying stuck in a state of insecurity, you’re not going to move forward to a healthy place” (CBS NY). But the notion that online communities are not the same or are not as strong as in person, real world communities is starting to break down.
A serious issue that comes with these websites is that if someone who is recovering from anorexia or bulimia can be doing fine but when they come across one of these pages they can relapse. The visual images that are on the sites and even what is posted are triggers for unhealthy behavior. This is a problem that is seen in a lot of areas on the Internet. We are in such a visual era that we focus on how things look and not always how things feel. This can be life threatening and when it comes to issues like Ana and Mia, the effects can be easily seen.
I understand the use of websites to be a community for growth and recovery when it comes to issues like this. Meetings have been proven to be extremely helpful in the recovery of things like alcoholism and binge eating. It is only natural that in this era that these sort of meetings and concepts would be taken online. They have just gone awry with the implementation of these groups as safe places that view these illnesses as ok.