Date: 27 Jul 2013

A comparative analysis of anorexia nervosa groups on Facebook

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Abstract

Purpose

To analyze the content and culture of anorexia nervosa (AN)-related communication on the current major social network site (SNS) Facebook.

Methods

We searched for groups and sites related to AN on Facebook by means of a faux profile of a young female. Identified groups/sites were analyzed with respect to (1) category (education, self-help, professional help, pro-ana, anti pro-ana), (2) activity, (3) motivational aspects (prose, pictures), and (4) social support.

Results

Numerous relevant groups were found in all categories except that professional help was almost nonexistent. Pro-ana groups were found to be the most active, best organized, and offered the highest levels of social support. Prose motivation was distinctly offered in all categories. Motivation with pictures was particularly evident in pro-ana groups. The most functional motivation was found in self-help groups.

Conclusions

SNS appears to be a relevant way for young females suffering from AN to communicate and exchange disease and health-related ideas. Caregivers, researchers, and institutions in the field of eating disorders should be aware of the existence, possibilities, dysfunctions, and influence of SNS. Whether SNS can help persons with AN to get therapeutic assistance as well as whether it can be integrated into psychotherapeutic strategies should be examined in future studies.