So I just checked my email and read all the responses to the question I posed about what anti-ana is. I personally don't have anything for it or against it yet but I want to do more research. I've spent a lot of time in the pro-ana community, although I'm not anorexic and have never had an eating disorder. I have other similar issues though (major depression, bipolar disorder, ocd, add, generalized anxiety, panic disorder, ethnophobia, insomnia and supposedly a personality disorder, however I would prefer to say that my condition is chemical and not psychological because although I am miserable a lot, I'm still level headed and sensible). Anyway, I started hanging out in the ana communities because I'm always looking for support groups, but I have such a myriad of issues going on that it's hard to find a niche. I also was drawn to how accepting the group mentality is, and probably also that I'm one of the older people there (maybe that makes me feel more secure or something, I don't know). As for my condition, I do take medication and although I'm well managed I still feel quite poorly most of the time. So, I ran into this community on here today and I started thinking about both sides of the ana issue. I have personally never paid much attention to it even though I was smack dab in the middle of it because I've felt that most of their site content does not apply to me, however I do enjoy certain forums and chats. Okay, this is going to be long but I think I have some important concepts to bring up.
I thought I would give my two cents here since I'm probably not the average or typical person associated with ana content at all. I feel pretty neutral about it, because I really don't think it hurts anyone unless they want to be hurt. I've been friends with hundreds of different girls on these sites now for several years and I've yet to see a victim. There are two types of common profiles. First, I want to talk about the girls who don't have eating disorders, however they claim that they do, and are a large population in the community. Most of them are under 18. What I see all the time is incredibly disturbed girls with terrible coping skills. Most of them are needy and enjoy talking to me because I'm 21, laid back, just hanging out online and don't mind listening to them. I usually have to hear about bad parent-child relationships, incredibly poor self-esteem but also a lot of their behavior reflects a manner of attention-seeking. Only rarely do they actually have an unusually low or dangerously low weight. Most of them are physically healthy, but also slightly overweight. To get attention, they will say things, for example, like that they intend to go and drink an entire bottle of ipecac to purge. I'll mention the lethality of that and they will try and argue with me, making things more and more dramatic, tending to try to argue their "right" or "freedom," basically a lot of "you can't make me or control me!" So there is definitely a major factor of passive aggressive rebellion. Perhaps they like to play this game with anyone who will play along because it allows them to act out a parent-child relationship problem by putting me or whoever else in the parental position of eldership and then proceed to act out in the way the wish they could with their own parent or older family member who they have a disturbed relationship with. It seems like a release of frustration and desperation. By the way, I don't talk to girls like this anymore. After about one month of figuring out these types, I will now just block them immediately, which is unusual for me because, like I said, I'm just really laid back and don't mind talking to strangers with problems. I have a lot of patience, but not for this kind of non-sense. Once a girl tried to rile me up by saying she was going on a fast of no liqiuds for ten days. I knew that she knew it was a crock, and I didn't feel like entertaining her so I just kind of said, "Oh. Okay." She immediately spun out of control saying that no one loved her or cared about her. I minimized the IM box and later reopened it discovering a long and passionate one-sided conversation that had gone on without me. There is also a large population of girls who come into the chatrooms to ask how to "get it up" or ask something similar in which they ask for purging instruction, leave the chat, return and report success or failure, often with colorful descriptions of the process. Sometimes there is group purging. It's just that the girls honestly seem to love it - purging in specific. I think this is because when you're a fifteen year old girl, the "bravery" of doing something so condemned excites them, makes them feel hardcore or special, and once the physical act has happened, they then get a rush of dopamine which rewards them for their behavior. To sum this up, these girls are miserable and depressed, for sure, but I think that a lot of their efforts and behaviors are indicative of psychological disorders, rather than eating disorders. I believe the majority of these anas are not actually anorexic or bulemic. To them, it's just the throw-up game or something. I have actually read about about, "the throw-up game" in a psychology textbook that was explaining abnormal social cohesion through purging, passing one another out, punching or hitting one another, cutting each other as well as themselves and even some bizarre cohesion that involves unusual sexual situations. Oh, and these are the girls that are into tips, tricks, suggestions, instructions and directions. They are usually the authors of the pro-ana sites that seem the strangest - their sites seem more like a vanity/lonlienes club with "right" ways to purge or restrict, bizarre tips and preoccupation with red ana bracelets.
The second, and other main profile type of anas in the pro-ana communities are girls mostly 18 and older who genuinely have eating disorders. These girls are not interested in tacky things like tips, tricks and thinspiration. Most of them are insulted by the phony, younger crowd. Their websites have content more along the lines of lists of negative calorie fruits, BMI calculators, and scientific articles on "systematic underfeeding" or "entering keytosis" and other complex articles on dieting that pertain to nutritional science and weight loss theory. I've made friends with quite a few of these girls and they're ill but very genuine and mature. If it weren't for them, I would have no reason to ever go in any ana chatrooms anymore. I really only put up with having to ignore the bizarre munchkin types because I have long-standing friendships with a fair group of the older girls who are worth the inconvenience. They will discuss how much they weigh, a current diet they're on or how guilty they feel from binging, but they don't stir anything up over it and seem to prefer confidentiality with a couple members vs. talking about much in the main flow of chat. If the topic in the chat is something that can actually be discussed and debated, they will participate in group conversation.
So, my conclusion to this is that I'm trying to give a realistic portrayal of the ana community from an insider's perspective. I'm trying to assess whether or not I'm pro-ana, or if I'm anti-ana or completely neutral. I do feel mostly neutral about it because I believe the first type of girls I described are disturbed, but they are having fun at the same time, want to be there and enjoy the club-like atmosphere. These are the girls that everyone assumes are vulnerable to the scene, but I see it just the opposite. They clearly do not have eating disorders and I've never seen any of them actually develop an eating disorder while, however, it's obvious that they're trying to "catch" an ED which is probably part of the acting out issue. The result is becoming upset, distraught and angry at themselves because they can't mimic the behavior of an anorexic because that's just not what they are and starvation is obviously uncomfortable and unedurable to people without eating disorders. As for whether or not the general atmosphere is dangerous to them, I would say, yes, moderately, in that they have their little purging parties. They also love to get into cyber cat fights and pick on one girl and get completely aggressive and verbally vicious, just like a pack of hyenas. However, I don't think it would matter or make any difference if they were not in pro-ana chatrooms. They are drawn there because they are already sick. I don't think they become any sicker. It's just that they choose that setting as an outlet for whatever their problem is. If they didn't have the chat, I'm sure they'd be doing something just as destructive anyway, like self-injury, running away from home, sneaking out at night, usings drugs and alcohol, getting pregnant, going on wild and manic sex binges or submitting to the will of an older, violent boyfriend they, "love." The other type of girls are embarrassed by the behavior of them, and mostly dislike the typical websites with pictures of emaciated women and advice like smoking cigarettes to curb hunger. They use the chat and forums to relate to one another during deeply depressing and difficult times. I think the communities have probably saved some lives for those that are seriously ill with eating disorders and would otherwise, have no other support group. Finally, I think the issue I'm debating right now is really a chicken and egg situation in reference to whether the sites attract people who are already sick or if the sites cause people that come there to get sick.
Finally, my official opinion is that these pro-ana groups have little to no effect on visitors or members and that censoring or banning any of their content is just concealing the problem and trying to look away. Pro-ana portrays a very grim picture of something going on within our society amongst adolescent girls. I do not and will never support censorship of any speech, literature, press, web content or suppression of any club or group. It is just so sad to see how disturbed these people are and you have to wonder where their parents are in that they often spend hours upon hours in the chatrooms all day. So, I'm going to hang around this group for a while because I've become quite interested in this issue and would like to pursue it further. By the way, I'm an anthropology major and a sociology minor with a second minor in psychology. Could you tell? ;-) Haha, sorry if I wrote too much or over analyzed. I'd appreciate any feedback, comments or questions in relation to this theory. Thanks!