Friday, August 09, 2013

Anorexia's Dirty Online Secret

Campaigning for eating disorder awareness in twenty thirteen, seems to go hand-in-hand with fighting ever-reincarnating pro-anorexia material on social media sites.

Most of us know the sites, accounts, blogs and hashtags that lead to the never-ending pages of thigh gaps, minuscule meals and anorexia 'tips'. The links showing graphic images of self harm, naked skeletal teens and challenges for sufferers to starve for 'likes'. How do people not know? Everyone knows about them, right?

As one hashtag gets blocked by bosses of sites like Instagram, another pops up. But we all know they were never REALLY blocked. 

I know them better than I wish I did, I used to be part of the 'community' before I chose recovery. Sucked into forums embedding my illness deeper, cutting me off from the world that said I had a problem and normalising my destructive, abusive behaviour. I wasn't ill, I was totally in control. 

But are professional eating disorder specialists still unaware of the scale of the problem of pro-anorexia material online? Are they slow to catch up to the talk of Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and dedicated forums? After the conversation I had today, I think they are. 

I'm not sure WHY they don't have their finger on the pulse. Is it because those of us in recovery are too scared or ashamed to talk about it during therapy? It's still something I struggle to talk about, it's sort of like admitting to your teacher you look at porn, it's like outing a 'dirty little secret.' 

Seeing the look of shock and confusion as I tried to explain the doors a single hashtag opened and how huge a problem it is. How abusive, addictive and disturbing the images are and the impact they have. How despite 'crackdowns' it's not going away. It's getting bigger, more explicit and EASIER to find.

What is worrying is that I can guarantee that in patients are logging on and keeping in touch with the eating disordered dark side, from the inside. I know this, because I SEE their posts, their vlogs, their meals and their comments, cuts and scars.

It's easy to be suck in by the hashtags, they go hand-in-hand with #recovery. I admit, I still look, compare and get compelled by the pro-anorexic world behind my screen(s). For as much talking as I do in therapy and as honest as I usually am, this is one area that's not been mentioned and with the internet being the beast it is, it should be. 

More really NEEDS to be done to educate and update professionals in what is going on behind the screens of patients, on their mobile phones, in homes of out-patients and inside the very walls of the units trying to break them free from their illness. 

Sod OK! magazine and airbrushing THIS is a problem and it is abuse. 

For as long as professionals and wards shy away from the influence of social media and for as long as they don't question or challenge it, or reach out to those who've not entered treatment, it's not going to stop. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh so true! I was really concerned re my daughter's on-line influences, and sought the advice and guidence of our therapist, who had heard that maybe facebook wasn't too helpful, but had never heard of nor looked at tumblr, instigram, twitter, etc. I was shocked that professionals working in the ed field could be ignorant in regards to what they are up against.