September 21, 2012
Recently, many news outlets, including Time and CNN have been publishing news stories that pro-anorexia websites might actually help in eating disorders recovery. The very notion of this is dangerous and misleading. The research that they are citing was conducted by Daphna Yeshua-Katz, a doctoral student at Indiana University and published in health communication.
The study in question interviewed less than three dozen bloggers. With a sample size that's far too small to boast data that's statistically sound, the study tends to rely on sweeping generalizations like, "Participants were motivated to blog because they found social support, a way to cope with a stigmatized illness, and means of self- expression."
To be sure, when suffering with any disorder or addiction, there is comfort to be found in community; misery indeed loves company. But the study and – more dangerously – the major outlets that have covered it are missing the vital truth that it's not the thinspiration content of the blogs but rather the sense of community that offers any value to these troubled young women (the average age of women interviewed for the study was 20).
While headlines like "Pro-Anorexia Sites might actually be Helpful" might generate hits, major news outlets should consider the ramifications of posting content that has the potential to do harm. It harms the credibility of a news organization when it publishes sensationalist headlines based upon hasty conclusions drawn from data lacking statistical credibility.
Individuals who are involved in the pro-anorexia blog community are clearly in need of help and treatment. In an anorexia treatment center individuals can find that sense of community while, at the same time, strive to improve their body image, develop healthy eating habits and acquire the skills necessary to maintain a lasting recovery.