Social networking group promotes eating disorders

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WASHINGTON - A secretive social support group emerging on the web is promoting negative behaviours associated with eating disorders.

It can be a helpless and heartbreaking situation for families as they try to confront a family member with anorexia — an eating disorder.

What they may not know is that theres a society on the net that is dedicated to thwarting any recovery from this dangerous and possibly fatal behaviour, the journal New Media and Society reports.

Communication researchers are reporting on a new type of social support group — Online Negative Enabling Support Group (ONESG) — surrounding the pro-anorexia movement.

Members of this society embrace anorexia as a choice rather than acknowledging it as an illness, according to a University of Cincinnati statement.

The ONESG pro-anorexia movement uses several communication strategies to encourage anorexics to embrace their harmful and dangerous impulses, writes lead author Stephen M. Haas, associate professor of communication at University of Cincinnati.

The themes are — Staying “true” to the anorexia movement: Forums and blogs invite members to discuss eating, bingeing and exercising, an “online confessional” of sorts where members can confess their guilt if they feel they have eaten too much.

Promoting self-loathing strategies: Websites encourage communications that not only involve loathing of the physical body, but also of ones inner being in confessing feelings of worthlessness and weakness.

Pro-anorexia advising: The two most common forms of advice involve dieting and dealing with confrontations from non-anorexics, such as family members who try to encourage healthy eating.

Pro-anorexia encouragement: The fourth communication theme uncovered in these social networks involves encouragement. This can involve affectionate messages that foster group intimacy, offer tips and techniques to encourage anorexic behaviour.

Researchers say this secret social network is strengthened by the anonymity of the Internet, which allows the exchange of extreme views.

Filed under: Medicine, World

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