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

red in these social networks involves encouragement. This can involve affectionate messages that foster group intimacy, offer tips and techniques to encourage anorexic behavior, and form a barrier against the disapproval of non-anorexic "outsiders."

In ONESG communications, there was a common ambivalence between self-loathing and self-encouragement. "Embracing the ambivalence of self-loathing and self-encouragement is an important strategy because it illustrates the inner turmoil that resides within pro-anorexia participants," the authors write. "They cling relentlessly to the idea that achieving a certain level of thinness will somehow remedy their feelings of worthlessness and undesirability; however, the means by which they attain this sense of value and belonging is stigmatized and deemed undesirable."

The researchers say this secret social network is strengthened by the anonymity of the Internet, which allows the exchange of extreme views. Interactions co-construct potentially dangerous, negative behaviors in a positive way that allows new, positive identities to be created. Affectionate messages create a bonding experience.

The authors write that as new social media emerges, it will be even more important to understand their role and impact on ONESGs. They add that understanding these communication strategies may also serve as a useful tool to break down obstacles to life-saving therapy.

"By gaining deeper insight, we can potentially increase our efforts to help those whose online interactions revolve around 'communicating thin,'" the authors write.

The researchers gathered their data by exploring general social networking sites and pro-anorexia specific websites that allowed public access. The websites and blogs were researched over a period dating from October 2006 to May 2007. The collected data was believed to be primarily from Caucasian women between the ages of 13 and 26.


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Contact: Dawn Fuller
dawn.fuller@uc.edu
513-556-1823
University of Cincinnati
Source:Eurekalert

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