Please excuse this brain dump! Running on fumes but had to get this down.
Here’s a thought I’ve been kicking around for a while, and the partial thesis of a longer form piece I’ve been (too) slowly wading through:
Pro-ana-style thinking is both ground zero for understanding the mechanics of digital communities and at the core of all digital communities.
What can you learn from online anorexics? You can earn about social contagions, how the internet is one perpetual text-based role play, the strange condition of wannarexics who create a parallel life where they are ‘digitally anorexic’ even if they may not be in the physical world (a strange separation of mind/body that it seems like we’re still learning how to parse online), how niche ideas and conditions become mainstream, how people internalize messages, how images, people, and stories become repurposed and take on new meanings, memes as we understand them today (thinspo is the ultimate meme!), how the digital blends into reality (if you look at thinspo long enough, will you become thin?), the spectrum of online identities— people who become addicted to a certain ‘vibe’ or ‘atmosphere’/are in an endless feedback loop of building and sharing mood boards or images to people who seriously self-harm.
When I say that anorexia is the nexus of all online communities, I mean that both implicitly and explicitly. Look around you.
Implicitly, at the heart of every online community—every successful, mimetic one—is an obsession with controlling the body. Explicitly, think of how much the language of anorexia touches everything online.
I wonder how well pro-ana websites were documented or archived. I know people think we should erase them, but thinspo has obviously evolved over time—old school thinspo from like, 2002 is burned into my mind, and I know there’s no way I’ll ever re-find some of it. Why would I want to re-find it? It’s internet folklore. Edited photos of models, invented narratives (anyone remember a photo set of an Asian woman named Bony Pink?), original art. Something was going on there. I know myriad articles have been written analyzing the behavior, but where are the archives?
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