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Pro-ana goes public

Posted Nov 24 2008 7:57am

Newsweek has an interesting article out on how pro-ana groups are coming out of the anonymous shadows of free-hosted websites and into the very public arena of Facebook. Anti-pro-ana Facebook groups still outnumber pro-ana sites on Facebook by a wide margin, but increasing numbers of pro-ana groups are now being launched on the site, with users linking their real-life profiles to their eating disorders.

Pro-ana members claim these groups provide a source of support and people who understand their disorders and do not judge them. Others aren’t so sure. Stanford professor Rebecka Peebles, M.D. coauthored a 2006 study which found that 96 percent of teens diagnosed with eating disorders who visited pro-eating disorder websites learned new dieting and purging techniques, and almost 50 percent of teens who visited sites ostensibly devoted to eating disorder recovery also learned new weight-loss tips.

Such groups violate Facebook’s terms of use by promoting self-harm or harm to others. Facebook doesn’t keep statistics on how often it deletes pro-ana pages, but says a team of employees actively searches for and deletes pro-ana and other self-harming groups. The hunt has only caused pro-ana Facebook groups to become even more secretive, with many omitting the term “pro-ana” from searchable titles.

Tell us what you think: Is it “safer” now for pro-ana sites to operate more openly than before? Should the sites be deleted or will this only force them underground? Do you frequent or did you used to frequent pro-ana sites and if so, why?

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