‘‘I love my bones!’’ – self-harm and
dangerous eating youth behaviours in
Portuguese written blogs
´
´
´
Teresa Sofia Castr...
pressures may influence their disruptive behaviours and how they seem to cope with
them[1].
To this end, first we present a ...
self-esteem (Bardone-Cone and Cass, 2007a), dieting (Tiggemann et al., 2000), and body
image dissatisfaction (Anschutz et ...
context, we used a qualitative approach to study the blogs considered eligible to meet the
goals of the research.
Ethics
C...
routines to lose weight (e.g. dance, gymnastics, ballet, martial arts, swimming, running);
information about medical exper...
Dealing with parental pressure
Conflicts with parents are frequently reported. Conflicts around food or appearance are
frequ...
And feelings of pride and joy are expressed when goals are accomplished.
Example (our translation):
I love my bones all ov...
find online preventing them of secretly engaging in seriously disruptive and
self-harming/destructive behaviours.

Provisio...
Brotsky, S.R. and Giles, D. (2007), ‘‘Inside the ‘pro-ana’ community: a covert online participant
observation’’, Eating Di...
˜
Ponte, C., Jorge, A., Simoes, J.A. and Cardoso, D.S. (2012), ‘‘Introducao ao livro Criancas e Internet em
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Portuga...
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‘‘I love my bones!’’ – self-harm and dangerous eating youth behaviours in Portuguese written blogs

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‘‘I love my bones!’’ – self-harm and dangerous eating youth behaviours in Portuguese written blogs

  1. 1. ‘‘I love my bones!’’ – self-harm and dangerous eating youth behaviours in Portuguese written blogs ´ ´ ´ Teresa Sofia Castro and Antonio Jose Osorio Teresa Sofia Castro is a Scholarship Researcher, ´ ´ ´ and Antonio Jose Osorio are both at the Institute of Education, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal. Abstract Purpose – Family, media and peer pressure seem to influence adolescent development activating the perception and internalisation of thin ideals that may trigger dieting, bingeing and other self-harming disorders. The proliferation of problematic online content consumed and produced by young people, such as in the case of pro-anorexic web sites, seem to worry not only parents but also young people. The aim of this work is to analyse content produced by a group of Portuguese speaking pro-anorexic adolescents in order to better understand how social and cultural pressures may influence their disruptive behaviours and how they seem to cope with them. Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative exploratory content analysis examined 11 Portuguese-speaking blogs written by teenagers (boys and girls) between 13 and 19 years old who use these environments to validate their pro-anorexic lifestyle, share body and image issues or search for diets and support from like-minded others. Findings – Blogs content analysis suggest that peer pressure, need for acceptance, and conflicts with parents denote the power of subliminal messages, revealing that, even at very young ages, stereotypical messages may be easily understood and internalised. The authors organised the collected evidence into three categories: common shared content found in the pro-anorexic blogs; celebrities and fashion models that young people worship as thinspiration; how youth deal with parental, peer and social and cultural pressures. Research limitations/implications – Although this is a very small group of blogs, this work offers a research contribution about pro-anorexic dangerous content consumed, produced and disseminated online by Portuguese speaking young people. This exploratory study is a starting point for further research. This is a field the authors intend to explore deeply using more child centred and participative research techniques in order to fully understand the issues at stake and to get the actual young people’s point of view and experiences. Originality/value – Provisional findings trigger the authors’ concern and scientific interest in learning more about pro-anorexic and other self-harming disruptive online content produced and consumed by young people. With this study they aim to help to raise awareness among parents, caregivers and teachers about problematic eating and self-harming contents as they may affect adolescent development and well-being. Keywords Internet, Adolescence, Body-image, Peer pressure, Pro-anorexia, Thinspiration, Portugal Paper type Research paper Received 25 March 2013 Revised 10 July 2013 Accepted 15 August 2013 This doctoral investigation is financed by POPH – QREN – Type 4.1 – Advanced Training, European Social Fund and Portuguese national funding from the Ministry of Education and Science, through FCT – ˆ Fundacao para a Ciencia e a ¸˜ Tecnologia, under a research grant with the reference SFRH/BD/68288/2010. DOI 10.1108/YC-03-2013-00351 Introduction The need to conduct this exploratory study arose during a literature review about specific risky contents easily available on the internet, as is the case of disrupting and self-harming pro-anorexia material. The emergency of online socialising environments coupled with the increasingly active participation of young people on the internet provides complex venues that challenge and worry society in general, parents, caregivers, educators and scientists. Therefore, the aim of this work is to analyse contents produced by a group of Portuguese speaking pro-anorexic adolescents in order to better understand how social and cultural VOL. 14 NO. 4 , pp. 321-330, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-3616 j YOUNG CONSUMERS j PAGE 321
  2. 2. pressures may influence their disruptive behaviours and how they seem to cope with them[1]. To this end, first we present a brief theoretical framework to explain the purpose and importance of this study that fits into the overall theme of a broader doctoral research project. Second, we make a brief description of the methodological and ethical choices made during this exploratory study. Then, in order to get a deep understanding of the pro-anorexic reality among Portuguese speaking young people, we present a descriptive and interpretative analysis, followed by a brief discussion of the data collected from the empirical corpus of this investigation. Finally, we draw some provisional findings and evaluate our work in terms of its limitations and value. Theoretical framework Issues related to standards of beauty, fitting in and body image are important concerns that may play an important role in the adolescent development and well-being. During the transitional stage (Gallego et al., 2011) known as adolescence, when body and personality begins to take shape and change, some life experiences can cause anxiety and even lack of confidence or self-esteem that can trigger problems related with body image dissatisfaction. Fashion industry, the media and the need for social acceptance, particularly among peers, seem to play a very significant and influential role that may challenge adolescent cognitive, emotional and behavioural responses in order to achieve a more slender body. Tiggemann et al. (2000), supported by research about body image, point out that in response to social and cultural pressures and motivated by body dissatisfaction ‘‘the majority of adolescent girls wish to be thinner’’ (p. 645) and because of that ‘‘many engage in dieting and other weight loss behaviours’’ (p. 645). According to the literature, an integrated analysis including the various roles played by family, peers, and the media is required in order to study the culture of thinness (Dhillon and Dhawan, 2011) as a symbol of happiness, health and social success revered by youth in the modern and globalised society. Since family is the first socialising agent in young people’s lives, parents and siblings’ behaviours towards weight (e.g. judgements, comments about their own and others weight) seem to influence the eating patterns and the body image of young people (Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001; Ricciardelli et al., 2000). The socialisation process in school also influences young people’s lives. Peers pressure during youth reaches a dominant role in the adolescent life; processes like the perception and internalisation of thin ideals (when the individual associates thinness with positive ideals, like happiness, attractiveness or status) are activated. Also, teasing and comparisons of body appearances among peers are common, and may lead to image and body dissatisfaction, which may, in turn, trigger dieting, bingeing and other eating disorders (Ricciardelli and McCabe, 2001; Ricciardelli et al., 2000). According to evidence from a study by Tiggemann and Miller’s (2010) ‘‘the majority of girls found out about web sites through their friends, with 82.5 per cent reporting this as the major source, followed by search engines (e.g. Google) at 17.5 per cent. The only ‘‘other’’ source commonly reported was family members, such as brothers and sisters’’ (p. 83). However, despite the influence that family and peers may have, the media seem to be the strongest sociocultural influence (Ricciardelli et al., 2000; Rodgers et al., 2012; Tiggemann et al., 2000) in the eating patterns and the body image of young people (Anschutz et al., 2011). It is believed that the media seem to influence and affect negatively the image, size and body shape of individuals (Ricciardelli et al., 2000) by promoting emaciated stereotypical ideals impossible to achieve and leading youth to ‘‘the belief that thinness and attractiveness are the cultural norm’’ (Tiggemann et al., 2000, p. 655). Images of attractive muscular men and extra-slim women in ‘‘magazines, television, films, billboards, and other electronic and print media’’ (Lorenzen et al., 2004, p. 743) invade the daily lives of young people ‘‘evok[ing] comparisons between themselves and [those] unrealistic media images of thinness and/or muscularity’’ (Lorenzen et al., 2004, p. 743). According to theorists, exposure to that sort of pictures that promote extreme thinness (e.g. through dieting, exercise, Photoshop manipulated images, cosmetic surgery) is linked to eating disorders pathologies (Anschutz et al., 2008; Ricciardelli et al., 2000), decrease of j j PAGE 322 YOUNG CONSUMERS VOL. 14 NO. 4
  3. 3. self-esteem (Bardone-Cone and Cass, 2007a), dieting (Tiggemann et al., 2000), and body image dissatisfaction (Anschutz et al., 2008; Clay et al., 2005). More recently, the emergence and visibility of social media-sharing services in the internet drew the attention of society. The proliferation of unregulated and problematic material consumed, disseminated and produced by young people, such is the case of ‘‘pro-ana’’ (also known as pro-anorexia is not listed as a disease; pro-anorexia is a social movement that honours anorexic behaviours as a lifestyle) contents, seem to increase and stimulate all sort of unsafe eating, image, self-harming and social disordered behaviours whose consequences seem to worry not only parents (Ponte et al., 2012) but also young people (Livingstone et al., 2013). Pro-anorexia is a social movement inspired in the mental disease known as ‘‘Anorexia Nervosa’’, and exists in the internet through online web sites (Fox et al., 2005). Being ‘‘pro-ana’’ is a lifestyle choice (Bardone-Cone and Cass, 2007b; Brotsky and Giles, 2007; Davies and Lipsey, 2003; Giles, 2006), grounded on anorexic behaviours (Williams, 2009) that results in ‘‘an effective way to diet’’ (Overbeke, 2008, p. 56) with subsequent risks to health. Meanwhile, ‘‘pro-ana’’ platforms seem to gain increasing importance and meaning in young people lives as they seem to lack offline support from health professionals, family and friends. As Juarascio et al. (2010) explain, individuals suffering from eating pathologies have more difficulty in the establishment of social ties, because they avoid social mingling especially if it involves food, and normally they suffer from depression, emotional confusion, anxiety, obsessions and shyness. The pro-anorexic online platforms tend to become popular because they represent a safe, neutral (Brotsky and Giles, 2007; Dias, 2003; Williams, 2009) and inclusive environment, where the deviant and marginalised group of individuals can come together; find relief and acceptance to express their feelings (Wold et al., 2009) and thoughts; can validate disruptive and self-harm behaviours without fearing criticisms or rejection. By self-harm we mean ‘‘a category of practices that cause the body harm regardless of intention (e.g. – ‘‘cutting’’, eating disorders, and suicidal behaviour)’’ (Boyd et al., 2010). Given this theoretical framework, and taking in consideration that: young people are active consumers and producers of problematic online contents that are easily disseminated and available in the internet; pro-anorexia is a potentially harmful and growing social movement; and ‘‘pro-ana’’ web sites stimulate unhealthy behaviours that can injure young people, the need arises for a more deep study of these youth generated contents once they encourage to a potentially harmful and risky lifestyle grounded in disruptive and self-harming behaviours like fasting, cutting or suicidal thoughts or attempts. Methodological and ethical decisions Method During the task of reviewing the literature on problematic contents on the internet, pro-anorexia literature keywords like ‘‘thinspiration’’, ‘‘pro-ana’’, ‘‘ana prayer’’, and ‘‘thin is beautiful’’ guided us through an online search using Google. From the surprisingly high amount of results obtained the first web site that caught our attention was a blog written by a Portuguese teenager boy. This means that if in the past, disruptive eating behaviours were considered a problem that only affected women it also corroborates that ‘‘disordered eating behaviours can occur regardless of gender’’ (Juarez et al., 2012, p. 48), age or ethnicity (Derenne and Beresin, 2006; Williams, 2009). Thereafter, we became interested in analysing the contents produced by this adolescent boy but also the material written by other adolescents that were following these blogger testimonials. We mapped 11 Portuguese (five) and Brazilian (six) blogs written by boys (two) and girls (nine), aged between 13 and 19 years old. For several months we observed passively the interactions and the contents of the blogs. The use of a passive observation helped us gain access to an authentic and spontaneous pro-anorexic environment and to get more acquainted with the pro-anorexic slang, and daily life of young people with eating disruptive behaviours. In order to analyse the data and deepen knowledge regarding the ‘‘pro-ana’’ movement in Portuguese written VOL. 14 NO. 4 j j YOUNG CONSUMERS PAGE 323
  4. 4. context, we used a qualitative approach to study the blogs considered eligible to meet the goals of the research. Ethics Considering the secrecy that surrounds these environments we made some choices to meet our ethical principles and dilemmas, which we will explain next. Public and private Young people perceive the concepts ‘‘public’’ and ‘‘private’’ differently from adults. What they post online is private for ‘‘people they know in real life (e.g. parents, friends, teachers, etc.)’’ (Stern, 2004, p. 277) who are not allowed to ‘‘see, hear or read it, regardless of who else does’’ (Stern, 2004, p. 277). Also researchers may be perceived as intruders capable of damaging these online groups (Eysenbach and Till, 2001), ‘‘[b]ut we also cannot use privacy to justify not looking when people are hurting or when they’re crying out for help’’ (Boyd, 2009, para.23). Taking this in consideration, we established some moral guidelines to select and use only publicly available data (Brownlow and O’Dell, 2002) (this is explained in the confidentiality subtopic). Informed consent During the exploratory study, we were faced with a big challenge regarding informed consent. But, despite the ethical dilemmas, we also were conscious that the dismantlement of the group was not a research goal. In order to consciously resolve this concern, we researched whether consent was avoided in other studies. We found out that informed consent was not requested in the following researches: Dias (2003), Giles (2006), Laksmana (2002) Lyons et al. (2006), Walstrom (2000), Norris et al. (2006), Harshbarger et al. (2009) and Boero and Pascoe (2012). Thus, attending our research goals and the unique circumstances of this group we did not ask for permission to gather and analyse the publicly available data posted in the blogs. Confidentiality To protect the confidentiality of the pro-anorexic bloggers we have encrypted the data collected in folders that are only accessible the researchers involved; information such as the blogger name (or nickname), and the blog URL will not be disclosed; personal pictures or other material capable of identifying these individuals in the web will not be revealed; iv) complete verbatim transcriptions will be avoided and will be translated in international research products; we used a code (B1 to B11) to classify the blogs. Evidence collected In order to respond to the theoretical framework presented in the first part of this article, we organised the collected evidence into three categories: common shared contents found in the pro-anorexic blogs; celebrities and fashions models that young people worship as thinspiration; how youth deal with parental, peers and social and cultural pressures. The pro-anorexic blogs share self-harming common contents It is possible to recognise common contents that enable to identify these blogs as ‘‘pro-ana’’ socialising and intimate platforms. In the web logs we were able to find information about ´ diets (e.g. milk diet; Beyonce diet; Angelina Jolie diet), drugs (e.g. laxatives, diuretics, energetic, appetite suppressants), tips and tricks (e.g. to induce vomit: chew well the food to make it easier and less painful the expulsion of food when vomiting; drinking plenty of water helps in the expelling of the food afterwards; avoid crispy, spicy and acidic food; vomiting within ten minutes after the ingestion of food; to disguise traces of vomiting: vomit in the shower; to hide weight loss: wear baggy clothes; to distract the mind from food and deceive hunger: bubble gum; cigars; heartburn pills; clean the WC; sleep; to hide cutting practice: make the cuts in body parts that are easy to hide, with clothing or bracelets, such as the legs, stomach, ankles and wrists); discussions around the most effective exercises and fitness j j PAGE 324 YOUNG CONSUMERS VOL. 14 NO. 4
  5. 5. routines to lose weight (e.g. dance, gymnastics, ballet, martial arts, swimming, running); information about medical experiences (e.g. treatments, doctors, hospitalisation); personal pictures that are posted as proof of emaciation and cutting; to obtain peers approval; as inspiration for other ‘‘pro-anas’’; thinspirational contents (all sort of material that inspires, encourages and supports these young people to behave in an anorexic way, e.g. quotes, music, videos, TV series, pictures); reporting feeling parental control in the internet (some of those who felt that kind of pressure decided to change the web log URL); testimonials about cutting, suicidal thoughts and self-punishment practices; health problems that arise as a consequence of bloggers disruptive eating behaviours (e.g. hair loss; stomach ache; tiredness; low heart rate; depression; menorrhea; bone pain; blurred vision and dizziness; fainting; anaemia). To better visualise where and how often we found these contents, observe Table I where a code from B1 to B11 was assigned to each blog. Celebrities and fashion models are body image thinspirations Pictures of celebrities (movie stars, singers and top models) are the blogs most posted thinspirational contents. In the blogs, we were able to see pictures of thin women/men, particularly models and celebrities. They post those pictures as an inspiration to achieve body and image goals. Those celebrities are used to get media attention for reasons that are related with their eating disruptive behaviours, and others because they have died from anorexia or other eating disruptive behaviour. The pictures work as a stimulus for maintaining diets, starving and weight loss. They also post curiosities and information about celebrities, such as how they remain in shape or how the anorexia affects(ed) their lives. Inspirational models mentioned in these web logs are, Kate Moss, Keira Knightley, Megan Fox, Lindsay Lohan, Taylor Momsen (also known as Jenny Humphrey in Gossip Girl), Miranda Kerr, Taylor Swift, Amy Winehouse (deceased), Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, Jeremy Gillitzer (deceased), Avril Lavigne, Nina (role played by Natalie Portman in Black Swan) and the twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Pro-anorexic testimonials about dealing with parental, peers and other social and cultural offline pressures The testimonials published in the blogs seem to reflect not only the inner self of the individuals but also internal and external conflicts and dilemmas. In the free judgemental environment of the blog, feelings of misunderstanding, insecurity, frustration, and depression are expressed. To better understand the intimate environment of these platforms a subjective interpretative analysis of selected testimonials will follow. Table I Common features found in the Portuguese written blogs Examples of contents found in the pro-anorexic blogs Information about diets Information about drugs Tips and tricks Exercise and fitness routines Medical experiences Pictures as proof of emaciation and cutting Thinspirational quotes Thinspirational videos/music Thinspirational pictures Thinspirational TV series (e.g. America’s Next Top Model, Skins, Gossip Girl) Report parental control in internet Changed the blog URL Cutting, suicidal thoughts and self-punishment practices Health problems B1 B2 B3 B4 † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † B5 B7 B8 B9 B10 B11 † † † † † † † † † B6 † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † VOL. 14 NO. 4 † j j YOUNG CONSUMERS PAGE 325
  6. 6. Dealing with parental pressure Conflicts with parents are frequently reported. Conflicts around food or appearance are frequent causes of divergences that usually start when sudden decrease in appetite, skipping meals and weight loss becomes noticed. Examples (our translation): (. . .) my mother is keeping a close eye on me (B9). I invented that chocolate, ice cream and chips make me sick [. . .] to stop them [parents] from offering them to me . . . (B9). Dealing with peers pressure In the sentence below it is important to notice the use of words like ‘‘obligation’’ that reflects the level of demand they place on themselves. ‘‘School’’ reflects that this is kind of pressure that comes from peers. ‘‘[B]efore school starts’’ is the timeframe that one of the bloggers has to achieve the acceptable weight and it also seems to reinforce the need to be ready to fit in before facing peers, possible judgments or body and weight comparisons. Example (our translation): I have an obligation to be at most [. . .] kg before school starts (B2). [For confidentiality reasons we have erased the weight.] In the following example ‘‘bullying’’ is the clue word, suggesting that possibly weight is the motive to have been bullied before and, because of that, the weight became a major concern. Example (our translation): Makes 4 years I study in the same college and I’m afraid to suffer from bullying again (B2). Dealing with other social and cultural pressures Others opinion matters and is important for getting personal acceptance. We interpret the use of expressions like ‘‘life at stake’’ or ‘‘[t]he way people see me’’ in the sentences below as, no matter at what cost, body image matters and what people may think of or the opinions they express about one self-image is meaningful to get social acceptance and to achieve personal fulfilment. At the end, all the starvation sacrifices (e.g. ‘‘I’ll manage to eat till 800 calories or less’’) are justified when social approval is granted. Examples (our translation): (. . .) I think I’ll manage to eat till 800 calories or less. I have to do so. It’s my life at stake. The way people see me and the future (B9). The following sentences express the power of subliminal messages. As we will see they seem to suggest that, even at a very young age, body image preconceptions may be easily well understood and internalised. For instance, thinness seems to project a mental image of success and happiness. However, they are also aware that such desired perfection is not achievable without health prejudice. Examples (our translation): Fat, happy? I doubt it! (B1). (. . .) it is impossible to be healthy and have the perfect body (B1). In the world we live, chubby have no chance (B3). I know I’m killing myself, but being fat is worse than dying (B3). Also pro-anorexic testimonials reveal negative moods. Feelings like despair, frustration or being misunderstood by family, friends or peers are very common in these digital journals. Examples (our translation): I’m weak. I cannot stand this [. . .] I want to disappear [. . .] Nobody understands my pain . . . (B9). j j PAGE 326 YOUNG CONSUMERS VOL. 14 NO. 4
  7. 7. And feelings of pride and joy are expressed when goals are accomplished. Example (our translation): I love my bones all over my body (. . .) I am a thinspiration (B11). Discussion Blogs content analysis suggest that peers pressure, need for acceptance, and conflicts with parents denote the power of subliminal messages, revealing that, even at very young ages, stereotypical messages may be easily well understood and internalised. During the exploratory study we have found a positive relationship between social and cultural pressures and engaging in disruptive and self-harming/destructive behaviours, such as starving or cutting. Bloggers testimonials support this inference pointing us some possible causes that may have triggered the dangerous and self-harming behaviours as a way to deal with external and internal pressures: suffering from bullying in school for being fat (B1), the ‘‘nobody likes me’’ feeling (B4, B5), the desire of being a fashion model (B7), obsessive-compulsive disorder (diagnosed in one case) (B3), depression (B11), social pressures with weight (B3), not accepting the body growth turning into an adult body (B8). Although, studies suggest that no negative effect comes from viewing pro-anorexic contents (Juarascio et al., 2010), according to our experience on the subject and studies from Bardone-Cone and Cass (2007) and Custers and Van Den Bulck (2009), we tend to share another point-of-view. We therefore believe that regularly viewing images of thin people and pro-anorexic contents may activate negative impacts and consequences for young people’s self-esteem (Bardone-Cone and Cass, 2007a); and visiting ‘‘pro-ana’’ web sites may trigger unsafe responses, like engaging in self-harming/destructive behaviours to get a slimmer perfect shaped body and be just like the celebrities they worship. However, young people ‘‘are not necessarily passive recipients that are simply ‘influenced’ by media and/or group dynamics’’ (Mulveen and Hepworth, 2006, p. 285), they are also ‘‘actively creating, changing and making sense of their social worlds’’ (Mulveen and Hepworth, 2006, p. 285) sometimes producing and disseminating problematic contents and contributing to the onset of collateral physical and psychological health damages that may endanger their own and other young people’s lives. Given those reasons we cannot assure that these environments are harmless. And a worrying proof is the dangerous contents that followers read and share through their own web logs. Of the 11 blogs we have analysed five have hundreds of followers (B1-176 followers; B3-251; B6-104, B7-423, and B11-362 followers. This data has collected on March 12, 2012); three have less than 100 followers; and only three have less than fifty followers. Pro-anorexic web sites are resourceful repositories to which one can easily get access and find a huge list of risky contents from which we believe that more negative (than positive) outcomes are expected as they contribute for: the proliferation of self-harm and problematic eating behaviours contents; encouraging body, image and self-esteem disruptive behaviours; irreversible damages to young peoples health; promoting alienation from offline social ties; the growth of the online pro-anorexic dangerous movement. In regard to the analysed blogs, we are led to believe that the internet is a powerful mean that helps keeping the ‘‘pro-ana’’ online movement alive, contributing for the consumption, dissemination and production of more problematic contents. During the study we have noticed that, for instance, one blogger started the blog after a research for diets on the internet; other bloggers see the internet as a wide source of diet information and a powerful tool to meet like-minded virtual friends; another one recognised that the blog was a harming platform. Consequently, it is important to note that parents, caregivers and teachers have an important role throughout young’s people development in order to contribute with a safer psychological, emotional and social environment that can help prepare young people to critically evaluate social and cultural messages as well as the information they search for or VOL. 14 NO. 4 j j YOUNG CONSUMERS PAGE 327
  8. 8. find online preventing them of secretly engaging in seriously disruptive and self-harming/destructive behaviours. Provisional findings For this group of young bloggers social acceptance, happiness and success is associated to standards of flawless beauty and perfection. So, during the exploratory study we read about worrying obsessive concerns with food, self-image and ways to achieve the ‘‘perfect’’ body. To achieve body and image goals the individuals wrote about how they were willing to endanger their own health. Interestingly, in the two young male blogs, we were able to notice that they were obsessed with pictures of thinness (like the girls), and not with muscular or manly bodies. The internet becomes popular among these groups because it is a powerful resource that helps the maintenance of dangerous behaviours and it also represents a safe nest where pro-anorexics can share information and experiences with other like-minded individuals. We also observed that once they begin to bond online with other ‘‘pro-ana’’ followers, the strongest pressure that sustains the unsafe eating, image and social disordered behaviours comes from the need to keep the anorexic lifestyle in order to receive support from the pro-anorexic group. Research limitations/implications Although this is a very small group of blogs, this work offers a research contribution about pro-anorexic dangerous contents consumed, produced and disseminated online by Portuguese speaking young people. This exploratory study is a starting point for further research. This is a field we intend to explore deeply using more child centred and participative research techniques in order to fully understand the issues at stake and to get the actual young people’s point-of-view and experiences. Originality/value Provisional findings trigger our concern and scientific interest in learning more about pro-anorexic and other self-harming disruptive online contents produced, disseminated and consumed by young people. So, with this study we aim to help to raise awareness among parents, caregivers and teachers about problematic eating and self-harming/destructive contents as they may seriously affect adolescent development and well-being. Note 1. The sentence in the title used in direct speech is an adaptation of a posted testimonial taken from the analysed blogs. References Anschutz, D.J., Engels, R.C.M.E. and Van Strien, T. (2008), ‘‘Susceptibility for thin ideal media and eating styles’’, Body Image, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 70-79. Anschutz, D.J., Spruijt-Metz, D., Van Strien, T. and Engels, R.C. (2011), ‘‘The direct effect of thin ideal focused adult television on young girls’ ideal body figure’’, Body Image, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 26-33. Bardone-Cone, A.M. and Cass, K.M. (2007), ‘‘What does viewing a pro-anorexia web site do? An experimental examination of web site exposure and moderating effects’’, International Journal of Eating Disorders, Vol. 40 No. 6, pp. 537-548. Boero, N. and Pascoe, C.J. (2012), ‘‘Pro-anorexia communities and online interaction: bringing the pro-ana body online’’, Body & Society, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 27-57. Boyd, D. (2009), Do you See What I See?: Visibility of Practices through Social Media, Supernova and Le Web, San Francisco, CA and Paris. Boyd, D., Ryan, J. and Leavitt, A. (2010), ‘‘Pro-self-harm and the visibility of youth-generated problematic content’’, I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 1-32. j j PAGE 328 YOUNG CONSUMERS VOL. 14 NO. 4
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