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Research uncovers a secret society connecting through the Internet
Date:2/22/2011

It can be a helpless and heartbreaking situation for families as they try to confront a family member with an eating disorder. What they may not know is that there's a society on the Internet that is dedicated to thwarting any recovery from this dangerous and possibly fatal behavior.

University of Cincinnati communication researchers are reporting on a new type of social support group as social networks grow on the Web. This emerging Online Negative Enabling Support Group (ONESG) surrounding the pro-anorexia movement is reported in the current issue of the journal, New Media & Society.

Members of this society embrace anorexia as a choice rather than acknowledging it as an illness. The ONESG pro-anorexia movement reflects four themes and uses several communication strategies to encourage anorexics to embrace their harmful and dangerous impulses, writes lead author Stephen M. Haas, a UC associate professor of communication. The themes are:

  • Staying "true" to the anorexia movement Forums and blogs invite members to discuss eating, binging and exercising, an "online confessional" of sorts where members can confess their guilt if they feel they have eaten too much or have not exercised enough to stay inline with the movement.
  • Promoting self-loathing strategies Websites encourage communications that not only involving loathing of the physical body, but also of one's inner being in confessing feelings of worthlessness and weakness. These negative rants are embraced by other visitors a communication technique the authors say is unique to this community. Messages are accepted and not contradicted, building a shared identity in acknowledging each others' failures.
  • 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 uncove
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Contact: Dawn Fuller
dawn.fuller@uc.edu
513-556-1823
University of Cincinnati
Source:Eurekalert

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