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 by anorexics as a girl named Ana.
Doing this helps keep the activities a secret. This also helps them characterize anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice as opposed to a disease. Custers and Buick (2009) conducted a content analysis of the “Tips and Tricks” section of pro-ana websites to better understand information shared on these sites, and to aid clinicians in identification, treatment, and prevention of anorexia. The results showed that most “Tips and Tricks” are directed at dieting/restricting calories (28. 6%) and distraction (14. 0%).
Most disturbing, 11% of comments were directed at lying and concealing symptoms (Custers & Buick, 2009). Even though the individuals who use these blogs are secretive about what they’re doing and their identities, the blogs are pubic and anyone can access them. The content on theses blogs and websites not only has an effect on the people with anorexia nervosa, but can also affect people without the disorder. Several studies have been conducted to try to find out what kind of effect these websites and blogs have on the average person with no known eating disorder.
For example, Jett, LaPorte & Wanchisn (2010) objective was to assessed whether exposure to pro-eating disorder websites influenced college women’s eating behaviors. Female college students with a body mass index higher than 18 and no history of an eating disorder were exposed to either pro-anorexia websites, healthy/exercise websites, or tourist websites, for 1. 5 hours and were given quantitative and qualitative measures designed to assess changes in eating behaviors.
The results showed that the pro-anorexia website group experienced a significant one-week decrease in caloric intake from pre- to post-exposure (12,167 calories vs. ,697 calories). Following exposure, participants reported using techniques on the websites to aid with food reduction and had strong emotional reactions to the websites (Jett, LaPorte, & Wanchisn, 2010). In another study following construction of a prototypic pro-anorexia website, 235 female undergraduates were randomly assigned to view either the pro-anorexia website or one of two comparison websites related to female fashion (using average-sized models) or home decor. Bardone-Cone & Cass (2007) examined post-website affect, cognitions, and behavioral expectations along with moderator effects.
The results showed that study participants exposed to the pro-anorexia website had greater negative affect, lower social self-esteem, and lower appearance self-efficacy post-website than those who viewed a comparison website. Additionally, they perceived themselves as heavier, reported a greater likelihood of exercising and thinking about their weight in the near future, and engaged in more image comparison (Bardone-Cone& Cass, 2007). With the high dependency, especially with people in generation x, social networking is the main way they communicate with each other.
This is another reason pro-anorexia content is easily accessible. Juarascio, Shoaib, and Timko (2010) assessed the number of pro-ana groups on social networking sites to analyze their content. A general inductive approach was used to analyze the content. Two main themes emerged from the content analysis: social support and eating disorder specific content. Themes were similar across all groups; however, a linguistic analysis indicated differences between groups on the two different networking sites. There was an absence of content typically found on Internet sites.
Pro-ana groups on social networking sites are focused on social interactions, and lack eating disorder specific content found on Internet sites (Juarascio, Shoaib, & Timko, 2010). The majority of the people using pro-ana blogs and websites are teenagers and people in their early twenties. This is also the age range when many people are trying to figure out who they are by developing their personal identity. It is during these times that family communication plays a crucial role in helping to develop those identities.
Grotevant and Cooper (1985) conducted a study to find the correlations between identity exploration ratings if the adolescents and the frequencies of communication behaviors directed from one person to another family member for each possible dyad in the family. Results showed a positive correlation with identity explorations and communication with each dyad (Grotevant & Cooper, 1985). Ritchie and Fitzpatrick (1990) found a recurring inconsistency in the epistemic interpretation of the Family Communication Patterns scales, widely used by mass communication researchers interested in the family.
The traditional linkage to coorientation is reviewed, and a more direct interpretation is proposed, beginning with a face-valid reading of items commonly used in the scales. Results from a survey of 161 adolescents and their parents confirm that subjects associate the scales with underlying dimensions of conformity or control and openness or supportiveness. Subjects also associate objectives of interpersonal harmony with concept orientation rather than socio-orientation, as has been previously claimed. Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990). Research has shown that Pro-anorexia websites, blogs, and pro-ana social networking pages help individuals with anorexia nervosa communicate with each other, and encourage those without disorders to desire to be super skinny. However, what we do not know is how the communication between family and regular users of these sites is affected by. RQ: The more individuals use pro-anorexia blogs, websites or pro-ana social networking pages, the less they will communicate with their families. RQ: Individuals whose families use socio-orientated communication are more likely to use pro-ana blogs and websites as opposed to families who use concept-oriented communication.
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