If there’s anything that makes me really shake, it’s sociopaths. Well, even more than that, and this isn’t something I usually talk about with folks- so even those close to me wouldn’t know it- but the thing that really grinds my gears the most is internet pro-ana content. What the heck am I talking about?
Pro-ana is short for pro-anorexia. There is also such a thing as pro-mia, or pro-bulimia, content, but it’s less common. This is presumably due to the contrasting (incorrect!) perceptions of beauty that those two distinct mental images embody. In the first, you see an extremely thin, faceless body, or perhaps a supermodel, often adorned in “dainty” clothing and laden with accompanying captions. I’ll get to the captions in a minute, but here are a few tamer examples. I refuse to publish some of the main ones you’ll find if you search Tumblr.
To Tumblr’s credit, they do provide a brief barrier to accessing suicidal or pro-ana/mia content, but as I said, it’s brief and I haven’t even read the whole thing, even with the hundreds of times I’ve been shown it.
“Goals.” “Thinspo.” “#Bones.” This is some of the lingo that pro-ana accounts on various social media platforms use to draw in their following. Here’s what it looks like on Twitter.
Who’s their following? Glad you asked, because it was me. I was an impressionable fourteen year old, underweight, fasting little girl when I first started engaging with pro-anorexia content. I had a very old tumblr (link here) that I reblogged those images and text posts to. I also had an old account, since deleted, on a pro-ana website.
Ah, yes, the pro-ana website. It’s called MyProAna and I’m not going to link it. This should be all you need to know about it.
On it, users can post pictures of their meals, pictures of their bodies, “thinspo,” and encourage each other to lose weight by posting daily weights, heights, and BMI’s as progress reports. You can also have yourself shamed into losing weight, praised into losing weight, and most terrible of all, get advice on “how to be anorexic.”
My first bout with Anorexia Nervosa wasn’t as bad as the second, but I used this website to lurk. I especially utilized the shaming aspects of the sight. I found that telling myself that my body was disgusting, an eyesore, and that I was weak if I didn’t eat nothing, was the most effective weight loss method that I knew at the time, and this website offered it to me on a silver platter. I had to go no further to hate myself; some money grubber had it all packaged in a set of forums, right at the top of a google search, waiting for my teenage eyes to skim!
When I almost fucking died, excuse my French (remember this gets me very angry), this website was a contributor. I would go on the website every day, and occasionally post. Rather than do work in the lounge of my school, I could be found on this website. Some days I’d intentionally leave it open in the lounge, hoping someone would see it and help me, but no one did and I never said anything.
One time, I went on the website at my boyfriend’s house while he got up and went to the bathroom. I just wanted to check it. I was addicted to pro-ana content. In my brainwashed eyes, it kept me in check.
That’s the crux of the content, too. That’s why it’s made how it is, captioned how it is, and why people keep coming back. It’s freshly produced to shame girls into following its methods. Take a look at one of the diets proposed on MyProAna.
The above thread has SIXTY ONE pages of people giving their personal anecdotes on anorexia and how they maintain it. There are, in turn, THOUSANDS of pages of these threads, each with hundreds (usually) of replies.
To these websites- their enterprise as a whole rather than individual people- there is no such thing as too low, either in weight or in moral standing, so there is an endless stream of content to be produced and consumed, and to be frank, one doesn’t run out of customers until the customers recover or until they die.
I’m a customer who almost died, but I’m also a customer who recovered and can see the full range of nastiness that festers in these musty, dark corners of the internet, and who sees exactly how toxic they can be to young girls. Without this website, and general pro-ana content, my eating disorder may not have been nearly as potent as it was. It wasn’t my low weight that almost killed me, though I was underweight. It was the speed with which I lost weight that completely robbed my organs and bones of any nutrition and sent my body close to collapsing. I can credit the efficacy of that endeavor of mine to this kind of advice content.
Keep an eye on what your kids, friends, etc are consuming online. Be critical of ad campaigns, Tumblr posts, all social media images. They’re made with the intent to persist, and if you can access that root, hopefully you can unlock the potency of the negative messages.
Stay safe, loves.