Lunchtime seminar: Anorexia and Social Media

Join Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham) for the Institute of Health and Wellbeing‘s lunchtime seminar Anorexia and Social Media: Ethnographic Explorations and Clinical Implications on Wednesday 8 June.

Anorexia and Social Media: Ethnographic Explorations and Clinical Implications

Anna Lavis (Lecturer in Medical Sociology, University of Birmingham)

Wednesday 8 June 2016, 1-2 pm

Holdenby, H39, Park Campus, The University of Northampton

Institute of Health and Wellbeing thumbnailDrawing on ethnography and interviews with participants to pro-anorexia websites, alongside those with young people in treatment for eating disorders, this paper reflects on ‘pro-anorexia.’ It asks what a desire to maintain one’s existing anorexia is, how it is enacted, and what might underpin it.

Whilst interactions around pro-anorexia on social media offer insights into lived experiences of anorexia, I argue that to understand pro-anorexia online it is necessary to engage with the meanings of the illness itself, and recognise the function it may serve for some young people.

Participants’ descriptions of anorexia as a ‘friend’ that ‘looks after you’ problematise taken-for-granted boundaries between health and harm, illness and care. Anorexia is described as offering a way of being in the world that both responds to and ameliorates distress; some individuals recount living, albeit painfully, through their illness. These narratives challenge any assumption that a desire to maintain anorexia is primarily about being or becoming thin. In so doing, they invite re-consideration of depictions of bodily emaciation in pro-anorexic social media spaces, and their layered meanings.

In suggesting that pro-anorexia, both online and off-line, be approached in ways that take account of the complexities of lived experience, this paper intersects with wider discussions around treatment resistance. It asks how pro-anorexia might be engaged with ethically in both analysis and therapeutic practice. Participants’ narratives suggest a need to reposition attention away from anorexia itself, to the distress and life events that may underlie both the illness and the desire to maintain it through mediated self-starvation.

To reserve a place:

A Sandwich Lunch will be provided.

If you have specific dietary requirements please email

Posted on May 18, 2016, in Events, Lectures & seminars, Research Institutes and Centres and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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