Myspace and Facebook are getting alot of heat lately. The teen-focused social networking sites have been under fire for catering to pedophiles, allowing cyber-bullying and eating peoples babies.
Now add promoting anorexia to the list of these offenses.
According to the BBC, Myspace currently has a 1,000 member strong group called "Pro Ana Nation". No, this is not a group of teenage underlings dedicated to making me Mistress of the Universe! Instead, It is something much more insidious, a support network of adolescent girls trying to get and stay skinny through 'extreme dieting'.
That these pro-anorexia groups thrive on Myspace and Facebook, is not a big surprise. Universally, I think that teenagers all crave inclusion and acceptance and a social network site is the ideal place to find this. This can create a very harmful environment but, as with any phenomenon, you have to take the good with the bad. These sites are also great places to find support groups for people with eating disorders as well as tips for recovery.
The compulsive desire to be skinny is nothing new. Thinness has been coveted in our society for decades. It's not for the male gaze. Most straight men I know prefer a woman with a little 'cushion for the pushin'. I can only guess that it is a compulsive desire to show control over some facet of one's life. For many girls in the throes of hormones, social pressures and growing pains, one's body may be the only thing they feel they can control. Thus anorexia transcends the purely physical to become a psychological disorder.
This is why I'm really skeptical about the scapegoating of places like MySpace when it comes to problems like this. As far as I know this whole 'Friends of Ana' 'Friends of Mia' (for bulimia) thing pre-dates Myspace groups and eating disorders have been rearing their ugly heads ever since the creation of suburban middle schools. I think we need to focus on how we can use these sites to show support for people trying to overcome anorexia and bulimia. How can we mine the groups like "Pro Ana Nation" and cultivate the resistance? How can we arm young women and men with resources and tactics to encourage their friends to get help through Myspace and Facebook? Why fight the technology instead of the issue?
I think we need to focus on how we can use these sites to show support for people trying to overcome anorexia and bulimia. How can we mine the groups like "Pro Ana Nation" and cultivate the resistance? How can we arm young women and men with resources and tactics to encourage their friends to get help through Myspace and Facebook? Why fight the technology instead of the issue?
Oh and NEWSFLASH. If we're so worried about promoting eating disorders in young girls, why don't we stop putting the likes of Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton on the cover of teen magazines? By normalizing the emaciatied "cocaine chic" look these girls sport we are telling these girls that skinny is in. Than we turn around and chastise them for wanting to be trendy.
But hey, I understand, it's really all Myspace's fault.
Just where is this generation's Sassy?