Practicum Question to Consider: Support Groups

So, for my practicum presentation tomorrow I have been looking at different support groups on the internet. Specifically, I have looked at support groups for those that are suffering from eating disorders and also “support groups” that encourage people to engage in eating disorder to stay thin that are known as pro-ana websites.

The question that I have thought of to be considered during our presentation tomorrow is as follows:

What may chose people to chose to go to a pro-ana website instead of a support group to help them get better? What are the characteristics that each of these different types of support websites have that may attract visitors and people to join and stay with their community?

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2 Comments on “Practicum Question to Consider: Support Groups”

  1. bhduros says:

    Sam,

    I thought your presentation this afternoon was very interesting, as I had never before heard of “pro-anna” websites or ‘support groups.’

    It’s interesting, also, that each type of group displayed the same amount of activity and, thus, functioning as online communities in similar ways. I thought your desire to maintain a nuetral stance on both websites and deter from offending either of the groups’ members, while a good idea, exposes one of the main characteristics of online communities; just as “outsiders” exist amongst real-world communities, outsiders exist too in the virtual world.
    Depending on when you posted your questions to each wesbsite, I’m surprised that no one offered a response, urging you to get off the site.

    I’d be interested in knowing the number of members maintained by each type of support group – the group offering support for recovery as well as the group offering support for the continuation of an eating disorder. I’d venture to guess that the support group in favor of recovery would have many more members, as it is not only the victims of such disorders but, also, family members, significant others, friends, etc. that would be interested in a person’s recovery.

    The type of members in each support group says a lot about the identity of that group as whole. Who is it that are encouraging recovery? Who is it that are encouraging the continuation of eating disorders – just those with eating disorders or those without them too?

  2. Alyssa Arnol says:

    During your presentation today you explained how the pro-ana support group website actually had a closer group amongst its members. As you explained, they had more frequent participation, reached deeper bonds, and discussed more personal topics besides those just relating to anorexia or eating habits. At first this surprised me as I personally find the website pretty twisted in their goal of encouraging unhealthy behavior. It seems they are discussing more basic, surface-level topics such as food, eating habits, exercise, etc. While the support group for those fighting anorexia would be discussing deeper issues as they are admitting an illness and supporting one another in their fight. I naturally assumed that a website in which people are opening up and discussing their personal struggles rather than tips on how to stay thin would achieve a greater bond amongst its members.

    However, after giving it a bit more thought, it made sense to me. I am still surprised that the eating disorder support group didn’t have a more close-knit community of members, although this is just one of many sites. Nevertheless, the close knit community in the pro-ana site makes sense due to their topic of promoting anorexia/thinness. Clearly this is an attitude and goal that many people don’t agree with and would find disturbing (I know I do). These people are promoting unhealthy behavior that although is their own choice; it is also promoting it to other people in the group and has the potential to cause real-world harmful effects. I’d imagine that most of these members don’t have a lot of support in the physical world from people, friends or family, encouraging their anorexic behaviors and attitudes; as their loved ones and even acquantances would root for their recovery to full health. Thus, unable to find support in their life, many turn to the Internet as a means of bringing a group of people together with an uncommon cause. This is similar to what we saw with my study on RSD being that it’s a rare disease, although it’s obviously for a very different cause. Nevertheless, due to their lack of support from friends/family to continue their anorexia (I’d imagine at least), the group online formed a closer-knit community amongst its members.


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