In our first Letters to the Editor feature, we are pleased to publish a response to Karin Davis' February article "Ana and Mia: The Online World of Anorexia and Bulimia" (OHPE Bulletin 244.1). In her introduction, Karin wrote "Hundreds of websites describe anorexia as a way of life, a chosen lifestyle, and refer to these potentially deadly disorders by the affectionate pet names "Ana" (anorexia) and "Mia" (bulimia). With names like "Dying to be Thin," "Anorexic Nation" and "Stick Figures" these are more than just static websites. They are fully developed web based communities."
Karin's full article can be read on our website at http://www.ohpe.ca/ebulletin/FullFeature.cfm?ID=244&keywords=anorexia&se... RES.
Kassia wrote to us in June after reading Karin's article:
"I am a member of one of these sites. Three, actually. But there are two, both connected and frequented by the same people, that I go to on a daily basis. I was very insulted and incensed when I read your article. The site that I frequent does NOT list tips or tricks, and we constantly tell newcomers NOT to develop anorexia or bulimia. It is a site where we can be open about our feelings and everything about who we are, and not have to worry about being judged. I truly think
that if it was not for this forum that I speak of, I would be dead right now. I have met people on there who have changed my life for the better. Not by trying to make me a worse or "better" anorexic or bulimic, depending on your viewpoint. But by being my FRIENDS. I talk to these people and it isn't like talking to my friends, who don't understand where I am coming from when I talk about food, or depression, or anything related. These people here understand me. They don't encourage me to be bulimic, they encourage me to stop. That's what the site does. It encourages people to get better, everyday. But it also allows people who aren't quite there yet to feel like it is okay, to know that recovery is a long process and that if they are not ready yet then they don't have to rush it. They can still find the help, love and support that they need, every step of the way. Maybe I am just another sick, deluded individual whose brain is "screwed up" from her eating disorder. Please do not imply that all anorexics or bulimics are not capable of thinking straight just because of their disorder. It is ANOREXIA, NOT SCHIZOPHRENIA OR ALZHEIMER'S.
"Maybe YOU don't understand what it's like to feel alone, and then one day find a place where people who feel what you feel every day are there to listen to you and not to judge. Not just about your ed, but about everything else going on in your life. I have found support when I was questioning my sexuality, when I was depressed and saw no way out, even trying to kill myself at one point. They were there for me, even when my real life friends were not. They helped me and were able to do this because THEY HAD BEEN THERE.
"I am meeting many of my online friends, may be going to a concert with one and am planning to stay in Germany with another through AFS. Now THAT is friendship. I would never even know these people existed if it were not for the so called "evil pro ana forum." Now I have friends for life.
"So in conclusion, condemn them if you want, but the site that I go to and its spinoff are amazing and have changed my life for the better. I don't know what I would do without these people. It makes me positively livid to think that there are people like you out there trying to take that all away from me. I know your intentions are good, but leave it alone. You aren't in my position so you can't understand what these boards have done for me. The internet is the internet and if a child is coming on here then she is coming on here and what she finds is what she finds. Not very eloquently put, I know. But you get the idea. There are worse things on here. You can find anything on the Internet. It can be dangerous, but that can't be helped. That is a risk we take when we sign up for service. May I ask you why it is okay for white supremacist websites to be on yahoo but not pro eating disorder sites? Would you rather have a bunch of skinheads being influenced into action or a bunch of lost girls finding comfort and support?
"And just as a side note, I FOUND my site after reading an article and doing a search on yahoo. Imagine that. If it wasn't for the media paying so much attention to this "epidemic" and sensationalizing it so much, like they do with everything, I would not have been seduced into the pro anorexia web of lies and deceit.
"On my site we laugh at the "anorexic commandments" and other forms of propaganda, and we have taken down our triggers section on one of our boards because it was stupid and too influential. We are not as dumb as one might think. We are just trying to make it in a world which is decidedly "Anti-Anorexia."
"I am reading a book called "Ravenous." And I just wanted to let you know that it is just as triggering as anything I have ever read on the forums that I frequent. Maybe all books about anorexia should be banned as well, eh?
"That's all I have to say."
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We forwarded Kassia's letter to Karin and she replies,
"I do certainly understand and acknowledge the need that Kassia and her friends have to connect and share with other women who are struggling with eating disorders, and I applaud them for not posting harmful or triggering messages and ideas, including the 'thin commandments' on their website.
"However, in addition to the site that Kassia visits, there are many other sites that do post harmful, triggering messages that encourage women to stay sick and discourage women from seeking treatment and other forms of support.
"I believe I made it clear in my article, that simply shutting all of the pro-anorexia websites down is not what I'm advocating. The intent of the article was to bring the issue to the attention of professionals working in the field, and to encourage a dialogue so that we can find ways to support those who find certain sites to be useful, while protecting those who may be vulnerable, and unable to sort through the ambiguous messages."
Our introduction to the new Letters to the Editor column can be found in the OHPE News section of OHPE 268.0 (http://www.ohpe.ca/ebulletin/ViewAnnouncements.cfm?ISSUE_ID=268&startrow=1).
Our full submission guidelines are on our website at http://www.ohpe.ca/ebulletin/submit.html.
We look forward to hearing from you.
The Editorial and Management Team of the OHPE