Girls Suffering From Eating Disorders Find Support On Facebook

It’s not official unless it’s on Facebook.
You know the phrase is true. Did you hook up with a new boyfriend lately? Get a new job? Start grad school? You probably updated your Facebook to let everyone know about it. Social networking has acquired a terrifically powerful role in our culture, one which legitimizes every facet of our lives. But what happens when Facebook users begin posting personal details that don’t merit digital high-fives?
Such is the case with a new trend in Facebook groups that actually promote such eating disorders as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Think about your average, “Hell Yeah I Went To Public School!” group and channel all of that enthusiasm towards the idea of starving yourself. Imagine scrolling through a list of your friend’s groups and finding one like “Ana Boot Camp” (which has recently been disabled by the Facebook administration) which attracts users who view anorexia as a fitness goal, not an eating disorder. They’ve even co-opted the name “anorexia” to just “Ana,” as a way of reinforcing the idea of anorexia positively. Members of “pro-Ana” groups collaborate on starvation plans and look to one another for “thinspiration.”
Though the pro-Ana phenomenon has existed for some time on independent websites, the jump from private domains to the certainly more public sphere of Facebook is a new step in eating disorder pride. While Anas (the name for followers of pro-Ana) have lurked online and in private chats in the past, joining pro-Ana groups on Facebook signifies that they are confident in their beliefs and aren’t afraid to share their eating habits with friends.
Newsweek, which published an article on this story this week, interviewed 20-year-old Kate (who declined to give her last name) about the benefits of being pro-Ana on Facebook.
“[On Facebook], there’s a lot of really close networking,” she said, “so you add those people as friends and exchange phone numbers, and when you’re having a hard day, you talk on the phone.” And by joining pro-Ana groups, these individuals are declaring their relationship with eating disorders for all of their friends to see.
The tragedy with the pro-Ana movement is that its supporters are completely oblivious to (or defiant of) the fact that eating disorders are diseases that need treatment. Anas believe that people who deride eating disorders see them as bad habits. Through social networking, they stand to spread their unhealthy message of celebrating anorexia to many more people. Young female Facebook users could be persuaded to turn to starving themselves to stay thin, if the cultural pressure to slim down remains and the cult of pro-Anas expands.
And even if Anas don’t convert everyone to anorexia (they’re not particularly mobile proselytizers), allowing their groups to expand on Facebook would mean tolerating eating disorders, which is an insult to those who truly suffer and deserve medical attention. Thankfully, Facebook administrators have already begun to disable pro-Ana groups, which should be a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, Facebook has evolved as a legitimate medium for trend spotting, and tolerating anorexia should not be another passing headline on the news feed.

An Unlikely Ingredient…ew
An Unlikely Ingredient…ew
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