Inside the "pro-ana" community: a covert online participant observation

Eat Disord. Mar-Apr 2007;15(2):93-109. doi: 10.1080/10640260701190600.

Abstract

A covert participant observation was conducted into the meanings of interaction in the "pro-ana" online community. Specifically, the researchers were interested in the kind of psychological support offered by such websites and by the beliefs of community members towards eating disorders and the processes of treatment and recovery. One of the authors joined a number of pro-ana sites in the guise of a plausible persona and experienced a variety of responses from community members, some extremely hostile, others very supportive, yet without ever being exposed as an interloper. These starkly different responses challenge the notion of a broad "pro-ana" philosophy, suggesting that the sites are best understood as local cliques offering temporary relief from offline hostility, but it is doubtful whether they can be said to possess any therapeutic value beyond the immediate online context.

MeSH terms

  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / rehabilitation
  • Ethics, Research
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Self-Help Groups*
  • Social Identification