AUDIO: The Online Evolution of Pro-Ana

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014

“This is the story of one lonely young girl who used the Internet to get better at starving herself behind her family’s back, and the online moment that changed her course to recovery.”


About a month ago, I posted about the “pro-ana” phenomenon (which, along with “pro-mia” refers to anything promotes eating disorders). Pro-ana groups are online communities that insist eating disorders are lifestyle choices, not deadly mental illnesses. Pro-ana moderators host discussion forums in which members openly discuss their eating disorder behaviors, and even receive tips or make diet pacts with fellow community members. In addition to discussion forums, pro-ana websites include everything from starvation diets, to tips for hiding ED behaviors, to “thinspiration” — pictures that provide motivation to lose weight. And the internet has evolved from MySpace to Facebook to Pinterest and Tumblr, pro-ana has evolved alongside it.

Around the same time as I wrote that post, I was contacted by the host of New Tech City, a show on New York City’s public radio station, WNYC. She was doing a story on how eating disorders have morphed along with the internet, and asked whether I would be willing to share my story.

I agreed almost immediately, since it seemed to be an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. But I was also nauseatingly nervous. Before the interview, the only public forums in which I’d discussed my eating disorder were in treatment groups and on this blog — neither of which are nearly as public as prime time radio.

pro-ana radio showBut I did the interview, and the host, Manoush Zomorodi, was absolutely delightful. And even more exciting, the story aired yesterday! I spoke about how the internet influence my eating disorder, Sharon Hodgson (founder of “post-pro-ana” site We Bite Back) talked about moderating a pro-ana site and why she had a change of heart, and danah boyd, a researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center who examines the intersection between technology and society, discussed social media, youth, and eating disorders.

So here it is! Give it a listen.

(P.S. FROM 10/14/15 –> hear an update from Spring 2015 here!)