Ah, the power of the internets does it again.
Recently, researchers have examined the power of websites that encourage eating disorders and have found, predictably, that they are very damaging. These sites act as sort of a how-to guide to becoming anorexic or bulimic. They also provide moral support (that term feels so wrong here) and other types of encouragement, i.e. providing photos of bony thin women on the site. Apparently, anecdotal doctors have been aware of the presence of these sites for a long time. Some claim that many of their patients have used the sites to help them know how to become anorexic or bulimic.
Now, there are a lot of wonderful things that world wide web provides us, but there are always controversial websites that mortify the rest of us. To me, though, this is worse than just one of those controversial sites. What I find exceptionally dangerous about the situation is that these sites are creating an acceptable social niche for people with these eating disorders. I’m no psychologist, but I imagine that someone who is susceptible to an eating disorder has a natural inclination to be more concerned with fitting in socially and feeling included and accepted. Providing an online resource to propagate an environment where fitting in suddenly includes having an eating disorder is a perfect storm for these people. Not only do they have explicit instructions on how to become anorexic, but they suddenly have a cheering squad to get them to do so.
What’s worse is that, generally speaking, it isn’t so much grown adults using these sites as it is children. I can see why a teenage girl, for example, would latch on to something like this. Most teens are already familiar and very comfortable using social networking sites, and these sites could fulfill a similar purpose. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are known for causing health problems later in life, especially for people who have suffered from such a disorder for a long time, i.e. they started as children.
I am actually really bothered that these websites even exist. The article mentions that even after they get shut down, they will reappear somewhere else (which isn’t too surprising). But in all honesty, what kinds of people are putting these sites up? It boggles my mind that there are people that would do that. I know, I should probably be more jaded and expect that sort of thing, but I can’t help it.
What are your thoughts? I’m sure you’re even vaguely familiar with sites of this nature. Will they ever go away completely?